Library Display - Taking Note: William Hamo Thornycroft’s Education Outside the Studio (2012)

Henry Moore Institute, 22 May–22 July 2012

The display Taking Note: William Hamo Thornycroft’s Education Outside the Studio was shown in the library at the Henry Moore Institute from 22 May–22 July 2012. It was curated by Dr Claire Jones, as part of the major AHRC-funded collaborative project Displaying Victorian Sculpture, for which Dr Jones was a post-doctorate fellow and project administrator.  Her book on sculpture in nineteenth-century Britain, with the working title A Contested Medium: Sculptural Innovation in Britain 1837-1901 is forthcoming.

HMI Library Display 2012 - Taking Note: William Hamo Thornycroft

Display Description

William Hamo Thornycroft (1850–1925) was born into a family of sculptors, and was immersed in the practice and business of sculpture from an early age.  His surviving notebooks, sketchbooks and books, housed in the Henry Moore Institute Archive, reveal how he extended his sculptural education outside this studio environment by visiting exhibitions and museums, attending classes and lectures at the Royal Academy of Arts, and reading widely on sculpture, costume and design.

Thornycroft entered the Royal Academy in 1869.  A small notebook, dated 1868, shows how he prepared for this formal education by taking copious notes from John Flaxman’s Lectures on Sculpture.  Once at the RA, his notes and sketches provide rare insights into its teaching programme during the 1860s to 1880s, notably unpublished lectures by the architect Sir Gilbert Scott, the painter George F. Watts and the anatomist John Marshall. These record Watts’s principle, illustrated through a comparison of knees by Michelangelo and from the Elgin marbles, that ‘all straight lines express length and all curved ones … area or size’. Thornycroft also records Watts’s comments on his work.  This suggests why Watts, who rarely worked in sculpture, was such an important figure to Thornycroft’s generation of sculptors.

This display was curated by Dr Claire Jones as the first of a series of Library Displays resulting from the Displaying Victorian Sculpture project.

Main image: Sir Hamo Thornycroft, Sketch for Artemis (detail), 1880, plaster and wax, Tate. Photo ©Tate, reproduced under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported),

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