Thornycroft the artist


After Hamo Thornycroft, Lot's Wife, 1878


Hamo Thornycroft, Teucer, 1880. "'The Teucer' was modelled from three men. The figure proper was from an Italian, the arms were from a man in the studio, and the head is that of a gipsy I found. The Italian looked a shambling fellow with his clothes on, but, when undressed--well, I have seldom seen a finer physique." H. Thornycroft quoted in "Illustrated Interviews. XXVI," The Strand, July 1893.


Hamo Thornycroft, The Mower, 1882–85. "It was the first work of the more realistic school I attempted after so much of the classical. It was suggested by a very simple incident. I was on the Thames, and on the bank I saw a man just like the statue looking at everything passing along the river. I made the sketch at once, and this is the result." H. Thornycroft quoted in "Illustrated Interviews. XXVI," The Strand, July 1893.


Hamo Thornycroft, W. E. Gladstone Memorial  at the Aldwych, detail, 1900-5

Photographed in his studio by J. P. Mayall at age thirty-four, Sir William Hamo Thornycroft was one of the younger artists to appear in Artists at Home. His rapid ascent through the ranks of the art world began after he won a silver medal in the antique school at the Royal Academy in December 1870, an accomplishment that acted as a catalyst for his success. In the late 1870s, Thornycroft was involved in the New Sculpturemovement, an effort to bridge the gap between sculpture and contemporary life.[1] New Sculpture works were often small and displayed as decorations in domestic settings; a number of these are visible in Thornycrofts portrait in Artists at Home. 

The mid-1880s was a fruitful time for Thornycroft as he exhibited a number of works at the Royal Academy that were lauded by the art world. On January 20, 1881, Thornycroft was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy. That same year, he exhibited a plaster model of Teucer.[3] In 1884, Thornycroft presented a bronze cast of a lifesize statue titled The Mower. Viewed by many as a controversial work, The Mower was one of the first sculptures to depict a lower-class laborer in the classical style, reminiscent of a heroic nude.[4] This successful decade of work concluded with Thornycroft's election to full membership in the Royal Academy in 1888.  

Seeking to bring sculpture closer to the public, Thornycroft produced a number of small statuettes in his later years, including Joy of Life (1895) and Bather (1910), but his public monument designs remained in high demand. One of his most famous works, his statue of Oliver Cromwell (1899), stands in front of the Houses of Parliament; his other governmental sculpture, a memorial to Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone (1905), remains in the Strand. Thornycroft was knighted in 1917 and awarded the first Royal Society of British Sculptors’ gold medal in 1924. He passed away one year later and was survived by his wife, Agatha Cox Thornycroft, and their four children.[5

Vanessa Pike



Hamo Thornycroft with his statue of Charles George Gordon (1833–1885) for the Gordon Memorial, Victoria Embankment, 1887.

[1] David J. Getsy, "The Problem of Realism in Hamo Thornycroft's 1885 Royal Academy Lecture,” Accessed October 4, 2016,

[3] Mary Chamot, et al., “Sir Hamo Thornycroft, Teucer, 1881,” Tate Britain, accessed November 5, 2016,

[4] "The Mower, by William Thornycroft," National Museums Liverpool, accessed November 5, 2016, For more information on The Mower, see Terry Riggs, "Sir Hamo Thornycroft, The Mower, 1888-90,” Tate Britain, February 1998, accessed November 5, 2016,

[5] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Thornycroft, Sir (William) Hamo (1850–1925)" by Mark Stocker, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008,, accessed 9 Dec 2016.


Thornycroft the artist