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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

George Gammon Adams (1821–1898)

Sculptor and medallist. At 16 was apprenticed to the chief engraver, William Wyon RA, at the Royal Mint. In 1840, he entered the RA Schools, giving his address as 1 South Place, Pimlico; in the same year he won a silver medal for a head, Melpomene. In 1846 he briefly studied under John Gibson in Rome. Returning to England the following year, he won the RA gold medal for his group, Murder of the Innocents (engraving in ILN, 18 December 1847, p. 400), which he also showed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. He established his reputation as a medallist with his design for the reverse of the Great Exhibition’s Juror’s medal. In 1852, Adams took the death mask of the Duke of Wellington, the marble bust he executed from it being highly regarded by the Duke’s heirs. Critical responses to his portrait busts and statues were wildly variable, even within the same magazine. In 1858, the Art Journal (p. 252) considered that Adams’s statue of General Charles Napier, 1856, Trafalgar Square, warranted a full-page engraving, commending it as a ‘faithful and characteristic representation … a bold, animated copy of a bold, lion-hearted and generous soldier’ and yet, four years later, damned the statue as ‘perhaps the worst piece of sculpture in England’ (1862, p. 98). Only his statue of Hugh McNeile, Dean of Ripon, 1870, for St George’s Hall, Liverpool, met with universal approbation, the Daily Post (15 December 1870) considering it the hall’s ‘one good statue’. Sadly, Adams’s brief obituary in the Athenaeum (12 December 1898, p. 350) remembered only the brickbats hurled at the Napier statue. Adams was a member of the Institute of British Sculptors from c.1860 and was elected FSA in 1869. He lived and worked, c.1853–90, at 126 Sloane Street, Chelsea.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 80–81, 391; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, Liverpool, 1997, pp. 280–82; R. Cocke, Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk, Liverpool, 2013, pp. 15–16; Mapping Sculpture; D. Merritt and F. Greenacre, with K. Eustace, Public Sculpture of Bristol, Liverpool, 2011, p. 63; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 295–97; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 335, 336, 344–46.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022