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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Sir Francis Chantrey (1781–1841)

Sculptor and painter. Born at Norton, near Sheffield. He began work in a grocer’s shop, but was then apprenticed to a Sheffield carver and gilder. He received lessons in drawing from the mezzotint engraver Raphael Smith, who visited the carver’s workshop. Becoming disillusioned with wood-carving, Chantrey bought himself out of his apprenticeship and began to paint portraits for a living. He moved to London around 1809 and set up as a portrait sculptor. He had already carved one bust in Sheffield, and in 1811, when he exhibited a very characterful bust of Horne Tooke at the Royal Academy (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), Chantrey’s powers as a portraitist were recognised. In the same year, a full-length marble portrait of George III was commissioned from him by the Corporation of the City of London for the Council Chamber of the Guildhall (destroyed in bombing in 1940). Chantrey established his credentials as a sculptor of church monuments when he showed his moving family group, commemorating Marianne Johnes, at Spring Gardens in 1812. The group was destined for Hafod in mid-Wales, where it was destroyed in the fire of 1932. Busts, statues and church monuments account for the bulk of Chantrey’s output. Virtually his only imaginary works are two Homeric reliefs, executed in 1828 for Woburn Abbey. Chantrey despised allegory, and his many church monuments are characterised by their direct appeal to sentiment, as in his celebrated Sleeping Children (1817), on the tomb of the children of Revd William Robinson in Lichfield Cathedral. His busts and statues are in a naturalistic style, and depict their subjects in tempered modern or ceremonial costume. His equestrian statues of George IV (Trafalgar Square, London), of Sir Thomas Munro (Madras) and of the Duke of Wellington (Royal Exchange, London), depart from precedent by the rejection of movement in the horse. Chantrey visited Paris in 1815 and Italy in 1819. He was elected Associate Royal Academician in 1815 and full Royal Academician in 1818. He was knighted in 1835. After his death, Chantrey’s studio models were presented by his wife to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In almost all cases, heads and busts are all that survived a space-saving exercise of 1939.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xxix–xxx, xxxi, xxxii, 155–58, 224, 225; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, Liverpool, 1997, pp. 75–79, 284–86; R. Cocke, Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk, Liverpool, 2013, pp. 271–72; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, pp. 163–64, 216–17, 221–22, 226–28; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 1, pp. 343–50, 365, vol. 2, pp. 99–112, 248–50, 411–20; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool, 2002, pp. 122–24, 393–94; D. Merritt and F. Greenacre, with K. Eustace, Public Sculpture of Bristol, Liverpool, 2011, pp. liv–lvi;  E. Morris and E. Roberts, Public Sculpture of Cheshire and Merseyside, Liverpool, 2012, pp. 113–14; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham, Liverpool, 1998, pp. 68–69; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, Liverpool, 2010, pp. 59–60, 246–47; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, pp. 9–10, 13–14, 17–18, 103; M.G. Sullivan, Sir Francis Chantrey and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2014; Walpole Society, vol. 56 (1991/1992), 1994, ‘An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, R.A., at the Royal Academy, 1809–1841’ (eds. A. Yarrington et al); P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 330–34; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 60–62, 293–95; M. Whinney (rev. J. Physick), Sculpture in Britain 1530–1830, London (1964), 1988; D. White and E. Norman, Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Liverpool, 2015, pp. 66–68, 119–22, 159–60; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 32–33.

Philip Ward-Jackson 2023

Chantrey, Francis, Sir

Frederick William Smith, Bust of Sir Francis Chantrey, 1826, marble, Royal Academy of Arts (photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London)