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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Percival Ball (1845–1900)

Sculptor born in Westminster. He was a pupil of Henry Weekes. In 1863, shortly before Ball entered the Royal Academy (RA) Schools, the head of Lambeth School of Art, John Sparkes, appointed him pupil-teacher in charge of his modelling class. During Ball’s time there, Doulton and Co commissioned the school to produce a series of terracotta heads (destroyed in the early 1950s) for the pediment over the main entrance to its Lambeth potteries building: Sparkes designed the heads, allotting the modelling to Ball (with assistance from George Tinworth, then a promising young student). Doulton also produced the two terracotta figure groups representing Instruction that Ball designed for the pediment of the Victoria and Albert Museum lecture theatre in 1868. Ball enjoyed considerable success at the RA Schools, in 1865 winning its gold medal and scholarship of £25 for the best historical group in sculpture, as well as a silver medal for a model from life. From 1865 to 1882, he showed 24 pieces at the RA summer exhibitions, comprising mostly portrait busts, with some statuettes, reliefs and fancy pieces. In c.1870, he went to Paris and Munich and lastly to Rome, where he lived and worked for about eight years. In 1884, for health reasons (he suffered from asthma and bronchitis) he emigrated to Australia where he established a successful working practice. In 1898, he was commissioned to produce a relief panel, Phryne before Praxiteles, for the Art Gallery of New South Wales and was sent to London to superintend its casting in bronze at J.W. Singer & Sons. Tragically, his poor health was exacerbated by the London winter and Ball died there of heart failure on 4 April 1903. The casting of his panel was completed after his death and installed on the front of the gallery building in 1903.

Bibliography: S. Beattie, The New Sculpture, New Haven and London, 1983, p. 18; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 164–65; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, p. 355; Mapping Sculpture; K. Scarlett, ‘Ball, Percival (1845–1900)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022