Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rennie, George (1802-1860)

600599Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48 — Rennie, George (1802-1860)1896Campbell Dodgson

RENNIE, GEORGE (1802–1860), sculptor and politician, born in 1802, was the son of George Rennie (1749–1828) [q. v.], agriculturist, of Phantassie, Haddingtonshire, and nephew of John Rennie (1761–1821) [q. v.], the engineer. In early life he studied sculpture at Rome, and exhibited statues and busts at the Royal Academy from 1828 to 1837. He also exhibited three times at the Suffolk Street Gallery during the same period. His most important works at the academy were: ‘A Gleaner’ and ‘Grecian Archer,’ 1828; ‘Cupid and Hymen’ and busts of Thorwaldsen and John Rennie, 1831; ‘The Archer’ (which he afterwards presented to the Athenæum Club) and bust of Wilkie, 1833; ‘The Minstrel,’ 1834; a group of four figures in marble, 1837. With a view to improving the state of the arts in this country, he turned his attention to politics. In 1836 he suggested to Sir William Ewart the formation of the parliamentary committee which led to the establishment of the schools of design at Somerset House, and assisted the efforts of Joseph Hume to obtain for the public freedom of access to all monuments and works of art in public buildings and museums. He was returned for Ipswich, as a liberal, in 1841. At the next general election (1847) he had every prospect of success, but retired in favour of Hugh Adair. On 15 Dec. in the same year he was appointed to the governorship of the Falkland Islands, and raised that small colony from an abject condition to one of as great prosperity as its limited resources allowed; while he offered a firm resistance to the extravagant claims of the United States, without provoking a rupture. He returned to England in 1855. He died in London on 22 March 1860.

[Athenæum, 31 March 1860; Royal Academy Catalogues.]

C. D.