Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pitts, William

PITTS, WILLIAM (1790–1840), silver-chaser and sculptor, born in 1790, was son of a silver-chaser, to whom he was apprenticed as a boy. In 1812 he obtained the gold Isis medal from the Society of Arts for modelling. He chased a portion of the ‘Wellington Shield’ designed by Thomas Stothard [q. v.] for Messrs. Green & Ward, and the whole of the ‘Shield of Achilles’ designed by John Flaxman [q. v.] for Messrs. Rundell & Bridge. In later life he modelled, in imitation of these, a ‘Shield of Æneas,’ and a ‘Shield of Hercules’ from Hesiod, but only a portion of the former was carried out in silver. Pitts had a very prolific imagination, and gained a great reputation for models and reliefs in pure classical taste. In 1830 he executed the bas-reliefs in the bow-room and drawing-rooms at Buckingham Palace. He exhibited many of his models at the Royal Academy. He made two designs for the Nelson monument, though he was not successful in the competition. He made innumerable designs for plates; the greater part of the épergnes, candelabra, &c., for presentation at this time were designed, modelled, or chased by Pitts. He was ambidextrous, drawing and modelling equally well with either hand, and in the latter art sometimes using both at once. He was a good draughtsman, and also tried his hand at painting. He executed for publication a series of outline illustrations to ‘Virgil,’ of which only two numbers were published, and also a series of illustrations to ‘Ossian,’ of which two were engraved in mezzotint, but never published. He made similar drawings to illustrate Horace and the ‘Bacchæ’ and ‘Ion’ of Euripides.

Pitts suffered from depression caused by professional disappointments, and committed suicide on 16 April 1840 by taking laudanum at his residence, 5 Watkins Terrace, Pimlico. He married at the age of nineteen, and left five children, of whom one son, Joseph Pitts, attained some distinction as a sculptor, and in 1846 executed the bust of Robert Stephenson, now in the National Portrait Gallery.

[Gent. Mag. 1840, i. 661; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1893; Times, 21 April 1840.]

L. C.