Sculptor born in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Bates began as a stone-carving apprentice and then an employee at the firm of Farmer & Brindley. From 1879 to 1881 he was at the South London Technical Art School where he was briefly one of Jules Dalou’s students and in December 1881 entered the RA Schools, winning, in 1883, the gold medal and travelling scholarship for his relief panel, Socrates Teaching the People in the Agora (marble version 1886, University of Manchester). Bates worked in Paris, 1883–85, where, on Dalou’s advice, he took tuition from Rodin. Following his return to London, he worked, 1888–93, with Hamo Thornycroft on the carved decorations for John Belcher’s Institute of Chartered Accountants’ building in the City of London. Quickly achieving recognition as one of the leading practitioners of what became known as the New Sculpture, his oeuvre spanned most genres of sculpture from door knockers to imaginative reliefs to portraits to public monuments, and he worked in a wide range of materials. His Mors Janua Vitae (RA 1899; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) exemplifies his use of diverse materials – bronze, ivory and mother-of-pearl – in a single work. Two important early sculptures were Hounds in Leash (bronze; RA 1889; Gosford House, East Lothian; reduction at Birmingham Art Gallery) and Pandora (marble; RA 1890; Chantrey Bequest purchase 1891; Tate). Their success contributed to his election to ARA in 1892. In what were to be the final years of his short life, Bates was working simultaneously on three major public commissions, equestrian statues of Lord Roberts and the Marquess of Lansdowne for Calcutta (Kolkata) and an enthroned Queen Victoria for Dundee. Each comprised a principal free-standing figure and a pedestal richly decorated in figurative relief panels. Bates’s death from heart failure was supposed by his obituarists to have been brought on by the overwork and stress of this heavy workload; the Queen Victoria and Marquess of Lansdowne statues both being unveiled after his death. Such was the admiration for Bates’s statue of Lord Roberts that two posthumous versions were produced – with the consent of his widow – one for Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow (unveiled August 1916), the second for Horse Guards Parade, London (unveiled May 1924).
Bibliography: The Artist, December 1897, pp. 579–88; The Athenaeum, 4 February 1899, p. 152 (obit.); S. Beattie, The New Sculpture, New Haven and London, 1983; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 94–95; Illustrated London News, 4 February 1899, p. 151 (obit.); R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool, 2002, pp. 231–34; Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham, Liverpool, 1998, pp. 49–50; Pall Mall Gazette, 31 January 1899, p. 7 (obit.); M. Stocker, ‘Bates, Harry (1850–1899)’, ODNB, (2004), 2008; Royal Academy of Arts website; The Times, 1 February 1899, p. 6 (obit.); P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 158–59; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 68–70; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 100–01.
Terry Cavanagh February 2023
Harry Bates (photo: public domain)