Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Birch, Charles Bell

BIRCH, CHARLES BELL (1832–1893), sculptor, son of Jonathan Birch [q. v.], was born at Brixton on 28 Sept. 1832. In 1844 he became a pupil at the school of design, Somerset House, but he accompanied his father when the latter removed to Berlin in 1846. Birch studied at the Royal Academy, Berlin, and in the studios of Ludwig Wilhelm Wichmann and Christian Rauch till 1852, when he returned to England. Before leaving Berlin he produced his first important work, a bust of the English ambassador, the eleventh earl of Westmoreland, which was subsequently carried out in marble for the king of Prussia. On his return Birch entered the schools of the Royal Academy, where he gained two medals. He then entered the studio of John Henry Foley [q.v.], and remained with him as principal assistant for ten years. He modelled the Arab horse in Foley's statue of General Outram. After Foley's death in 1874 Birch succeeded to his studio at 17 Onaburgh Street, Regent's Park. Birch's German education and sympathies in art, aided by the recollection of his father's friendship with the Prussian royal family, and with Bunsen, commended him to the notice of the English court. The crown prince of Prussia gave him sittings at Buckingham Palace for a portrait bust before his marriage with the princess royal in 1858. Birch's progress, however, was slow till in 1864 he won a premium of 600l., offered by the Art Union of London to all comers for a life-size figure or group, with his group, 'A Wood Nymph,' which was afterwards exhibited at Vienna, Philadelphia, and Paris. He then became a frequent exhibitor at Burlington House, where his realistic and vigorous military groups were much admired. The best of these were 'The Last Call' (1879), representing the simultaneous death of a trumpeter and his horse on the battlefield, and 'Lieutenant Walter Hamilton, V.C. at Cabul, 3 Sept. 1879' (1880, now at Dublin). The success of these dramatic groups led to his election as an associate of the Royal Academy on 22 April 1880. It was in that year that he produced the work by which he is most likely to be remembered in London, the unfortunate bronze 'Griffin,' or dragon, as it should rather be called, on the Temple Bar memorial in Fleet Street. Birch was not responsible for the general design of the monument, the architect of which was Sir Horace Jones [q. v.], while the statues of the queen and the prince of Wales were the work of Sir Edgar Boehm [q. v. Suppl.] Birch received many commissions for portrait statues, among others that of Lord Beaconsfield, life-size in marble, for the Junior Carlton Club, W. E. Gladstone, and a bust of Lord John Russell, for the City Liberal Club; the Earl of Dudley, at Dudley; Dr. S. T. Chadwick, at Bolton; and a statue of Mr. Charles Wyndham as 'David Garrick.' He produced two statues of Queen Victoria, one in bronze for Aberdeen, one in marble for Oodeypore, India. A colossal statue of Lord Beaconsfield is at Liverpool; a statue of General Earle, and a large group, 'Godiva,' are placed in front of St. George's Hall in the same city. Several of his works are at Sydney, New South Wales, including 'Retaliation,' which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878, and purchased by the commissioners of the Sydney Art Gallery; 'Justice' and 'Plenty,' allegorical figures in marble at the entrance of the Australian Joint-stock Bank; and a 'Water Nymph,' a bronze statue placed over a fountain. A monument to Jenny Lind by Birch is in Malvern cemetery. He obtained many commissions for silver statuettes for racecups. One of these was an equestrian statuette of William III, which was ordered by the king of the Netherlands as a prize for a race to be run at Goodwood under the name of the Orange Cup. This is now the property of Queen Alexandra. Other silver statuettes are those of Lord Sandwich, Lord Lonsdale, and the Marquess of Exeter. Birch also did good work as a medallist. He contributed as a draughtsman on stone and wood to the 'Illustrated London News' and other periodicals, and exhibited two water-colours at the Royal Academy in 1871. His twenty original designs for Byron's ' Lara ' were published by the Art Union of London in 1880. Birch died on 16 Oct. 1893. A portrait of him in sixteenth century costume was painted by Mr. Seymour Lucas, R.A.

[Times, 18 Oct. 1893; Building News, 20 Oct. 1893; Athenæum, 21 Oct. 1893; Illustrated London News, 21 Oct. 1893 (with portrait); Magazine of Art, 1894, xvii. 80 (with portrait and illustrations); Reports of the Art Union of London, 1863-4.]

C. D.