Stephens on Lawson

GEORGE A. LAWSON

F. G. Stephens, "George A. Lawson" Artists at Home, 1884

Stephens’s text about George Anderson Lawson begins with a brief sketch of the artist’s education, starting with his apprenticeship in Scotland, moving on to his training at the Scottish Royal Academy, and finally his travels in Rome. Indeed, Lawson’s trip to Rome provides Stephens with a frame of reference for discussing his sculpture. He describes Lawson’s work by referencing ancient sculptural types, and he sees both Etruscan and Greek influences in Lawson’s oeuvre. Stephens emphasizes the sculptor’s independent approach to ancient art at a time when John Gibson’s neoclassicism prevailed in Rome: “Avoiding this scholastic influence, which had guided many promising men, Mr. Lawson examined the antique for himself, and resolved not to follow the academical leader, but to impart greater vitality to his designs than the canons of traditional art allowed” (p. 23).

Although Stephens mentions Lawson’s move from Scotland to Liverpool, he neglects to mention the reason for it: a commission for a statue of the Duke of Wellington to crown the Waterloo Memorial.[1] While Stephens mentions this project near the end of the sketch, he does not go into detail about the public portrait sculptures that make up a significant portion of Lawson’s work, perhaps because these sculptures were not the type of work to attract the attention of the fine arts world. Instead, Stephens focuses on Lawson’s poetic and narrative sculptures, devoting much of his text to describing and listing them, sometimes with comments on his own experience of seeing the works on exhibition. Stephens then identifies every sculpture in the image in Artists at Home.

While Stephens’s description of Lawson’s life and work is positive and informative, it lacks the personal touches that inflect many of his biographical sketches in Artists at Home. This brief, impersonal biography suggests that Stephens had little personal interaction with Lawson.  

Karuna Srikureja

 

[1] R. L. Woodward,  “Nineteenth century Scottish sculpture,” PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 1979.

Wellington Column, Liverpool

G. A. Lawson, bronze panel, south side, Wellington Column, Liverpool, 1863–65

Wellington Column, Liverpool

Wellington Column, Liverpool, 1861–65, designed by Andrew Lawson, sculupture by G. A. Lawson

Wellington Column, Liverpool

G. A. Lawson, Statue of the Duke of Wellington, 1863–65, bronze

GEORGE A. LAWSON
Stephens on Lawson