Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thornycroft, Mary

THORNYCROFT, MARY (1814–1895), sculptor, born at Thornham, Norfolk, in 1814, was the daughter of John Francis (1780–1861) [q. v.], the sculptor, who brought her up to his own profession. She studied to such purpose that she became an exhibitor at the Royal Academy at the age of twenty-one. Five years later she married her fellow-pupil, Thomas Thornycroft [q. v.], and with him travelled to Italy and lived and worked for a time in Rome. There she became the friend of Thorwaldsen and of John Gibson (1790–1866) [q. v.] On her return to London she was recommended by Gibson to Queen Victoria, for whom she executed numerous busts and statues, chiefly of the royal children. In the drawingroom at Osborne there were no fewer than nine life-size marble statues of the young princes and princesses modelled by her. Besides these she executed a considerable number of busts of private individuals, as well as a few ideal statues. Among the latter is her well-known figure of a ‘Skipping Girl,’ which may on the whole be called her masterpiece. Mrs. Thornycroft died on 1 Feb. 1895. Two of her daughters, Alyce and Helen, followed their mother's footsteps in art. One of her sons, W. Hamo Thornycroft, became a sculptor and a member of the Royal Academy; the other, John Isaac Thornycroft, F.R.S., is the famous builder of torpedo-boats.

[Times, 4 Feb. 1895; Magazine of Art; private information from Mr. Hamo Thornycroft, R.A.]

W. A.