William Rimmer - Encyclopedia

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WILLIAM RIMMER (1816-1879), an American artist, was born in Liverpool, England, on the 20th of February 1816. He was the son of a French refugee, who emigrated to Nova Scotia, where he was joined by his wife and child in 1818, and who in 1826 removed to Boston, where he earned a living as a shoe-maker. The son learned the father's trade; at fifteen became a draughtsman and sign-painter; then worked for a lithographer; opened a studio and painted some ecclesiastical pictures; in 1840 made a tour of New England painting portraits; lived in Randolph, Mass., in 1845-55 as a shoemaker, for the last years of the decade practising medicine; practised in East Chelsea and received a diploma from the Suffolk County Medical Society; and in 1855 removed to East Milton, where he supplemented his income by carving busts from blocks of granite. In 1860 he made his head of St Stephen (now in the Boston Athenaeum) and in 1861 his "Falling Gladiator" (since 1880 in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts), which Truman H. Bartlett calls "the most remarkable work of sculpture that has yet [1882] been produced in this country ... powerful, wonderful, but not alluring." Rimmer's sculptures, except those mentioned and "The Fighting Lions" (now in the Boston Art Club), "A Dying Centaur" (in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts), and a statue of Alexander Hamilton (made in 1865 for the city of Boston), were soon destroyed. He worked in clay, not modelling but building up and chiselling; almost always without models or preliminary sketches; and always under technical disadvantages and in great haste; but his sculpture is anatomically remarkable and has an "earlyGreek" simplicity and strength. He published Elements of Design (1864) and Art Anatomy (1877), but his great work was in the class-room, where his lectures were illustrated with blackboard sketches. His studies in line suggest William Blake in their imaginative power. He died on the 10th of August 1879.

See Truman H. Bartlett, The Art Life of William Rimmer (Boston, 1882).

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