Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Westmacott, Richard (1775-1856)

757480Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60 — Westmacott, Richard (1775-1856)1899Campbell Dodgson

WESTMACOTT, Sir RICHARD (1775–1856), sculptor, was born in London in 1775. He was the eldest son of Richard Westmacott, sculptor, of Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, who published in 1777 a series of twenty engraved designs for chimney-pieces, with classical ornaments, and died on 27 March 1808, aged 60 (Gent. Mag. 1808, i. 274). His father gave him the first instruction in his own art, and sent him in 1793 to Rome, where he studied under Canova. He made rapid progress, and in 1795 gained the first gold medal of the academy of St. Luke, offered by the pope, with a bas-relief of Joseph and his brethren. In the same year he was elected a member of the academy of Florence. He left Rome in 1797, on the approach of the French army, and travelled by Bologna to Venice, and thence through Germany, reaching London at the close of the year.

The first work which he exhibited at the Royal Academy was a bust of Sir William Chambers in 1797. He remained a constant exhibitor, sending several works each year, with hardly an exception, till 1839, after which he retired almost wholly from professional practice. Up to 1820 he exhibited chiefly monumental sculpture, varied by portrait-busts and statues. He had a large practice, second only to Chantrey's, and received commissions for monuments in all parts of the country, as well as in India and the colonies. Among the more important of these were the statues in Westminster Abbey of Addison (1806), General Villettes (1809), Pitt, Fox, and Spencer Perceval; many monuments in St. Paul's, including those to Sir Ralph Abercromby, Collingwood, Duncan, Captain Cook, General Gibbs, and General Pakenham; a statue of Nelson at Birmingham (1809), and the statues of Francis, fifth duke of Bedford, in Russell Square (1809), and of Fox in Bloomsbury Square (1816). Westmacott was employed in arranging the Towneley marbles which were purchased for the British Museum, then in Montague House, in 1805. In that year he was elected an associate and in 1811 a full member of the Royal Academy. He presented as his diploma work a ‘Ganymede’ in high relief. In the catalogues of the academy exhibitions his address is given as 24 Mount Street till 1819, when he had removed to 14 South Audley Street, where he resided during the remainder of his life. In 1820 he exhibited his first classical subject, a relief of ‘Hero and Leander,’ and in the same year ‘Maternal Affection,’ a bas-relief; in 1821 ‘Resignation;’ in 1822 the ‘Houseless Traveller,’ also known as the ‘Distressed Mother,’ the property of Lord Lansdowne (a repetition of a group originally designed for the monument to Mrs. Warren, wife of the bishop of Bangor, in Westminster Abbey; the companion group, ‘The Happy Mother,’ was less successful); in 1822 ‘Psyche,’ and in 1823 ‘Cupid,’ executed for the Duke of Bedford, now at Woburn; in 1823 ‘Horace's Dream;’ in 1824 a ‘Nymph;’ in 1825 ‘Afflicted Peasants’ and ‘Madonna and Child;’ in 1826 a statue of Lord Erskine, afterwards placed in the old hall, Lincoln's Inn; in 1827 ‘Cupid made Prisoner;’ in 1828 and 1829 portions of the monument to Warren Hastings for Calcutta Cathedral; in 1830 a statue of the Duc de Montpensier for Westminster Abbey; in 1832 ‘The Gipsy;’ in 1834 a statue of Locke for University College, London; in 1835 ‘Devotion;’ in 1837 ‘Euphrosyne’ for the Duke of Newcastle; in 1839 ‘The Abolition of Suttee’ for the pedestal of a statue of Lord William Bentinck, and in the same year a statue of Lady Susan Murray.

Of his works which were not exhibited at the Royal Academy the most important were the colossal bronze statue of Achilles in Hyde Park, copied from the original on Monte Cavallo at Rome, which was erected by the ladies of England in compliment to the Duke of Wellington in 1822; an equestrian statue of George III, erected in 1822 at Liverpool; the statue of the Duke of York, fourteen feet high, on the column in Waterloo Place, 1833; and a monument to Lord Penrhyn at Penrhyn, North Wales. Jointly with Flaxman and Baily he executed the reliefs on the Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace (removed to its present situation at Cumberland Gate, Hyde Park, in 1851). One of Westmacott's last works was the ornamental group representing the progress of civilisation in the pediment of the portico of the British Museum, completed in 1847. Here he introduced colour by gilding some of the instruments and setting off the white figures by a blue tympanum. The watercolour design for this group is in the print-room of the British Museum.

In 1827 Westmacott had succeeded Flaxman as professor of sculpture at the Royal Academy. He continued to lecture annually till 1854. His lectures showed considerable archæological knowledge and sound judgment. He was also auditor to the Academy and a regular attendant at its business meetings. He received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford on 15 June 1836, and was knighted on 19 July 1837. He died at 14 South Audley Street on 1 Sept. 1856. On 20 Feb. 1798 he married Dorothy Margaret, daughter of Dr. Wilkinson of Jamaica. His son Richard [q. v.] is separately noticed. A portrait of Westmacott, drawn in crayons, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

A younger brother, Thomas Westmacott (d. 1798), a pupil of James Wyatt, exhibited four architectural designs at the Royal Academy, 1796–8. He received the silver medal for architecture at the Royal Academy in November 1798, and died on 3 Dec. in the same year (Gent. Mag. 1798, ii. 1153).

[Gent. Mag. 1856, new ser. i. 509; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Sandby's Hist. of Royal Acad. i. 379; Royal Academy Catalogues.]

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