Sculptor and painter who was born in Cape Town, South Africa, but following the death of his mother moved with his father to England. Copnall studied at Goldsmiths School of Art and the RA Schools (finishing at the latter in 1924). He began as a painter, but turned to sculpture 1929 having met Eric Kennington and been strongly impressed by his work. Copnall exhibited widely, at the RA (1925–70), the London Gallery, New English Art Club, Royal Society of Arts, and at the Paris Salon. He was awarded the MBE in 1946 for his services during the Second World War as a camouflage officer. He was head of the Sir John Cass School of Art, 1945–53, and President of the RBS (now RSS), 1961–66. Copnall’s major public commissions include stone relief figures, 1931–34, on Grey Wornum’s RIBA building Portland Place, London; the easternmost stone relief figure, 1936–38, on the Adelphi Building, John Adam St, London; The Word (The Lambeth Preacher)), 1947–49, Lambeth Mission and St Mary’s Church, Lambeth Road; Carrara marble reliefs of actors and playwrights, 1959, formerly on the balcony fronts of St James’s House (demolished 1986), erected on the site of the St James’s Theatre, Angel Court, London; and Stag, 1962 (RBS Silver Medal), aluminium, formerly Stag Square, Victoria, relocated to Maidstone, 2004. Copnall’s Sculptor’s Manual, published by Oxford in 1971, includes an account of his pioneering investigations into sculpture in fibreglass resin, the first result of which was The Swan Upper, 1963, ICT House, northern approach to Putney Bridge, and the best known probably Becket, 1973, St Paul’s Cathedral churchyard.
Bibliography: Bainbridge Copnall. Painter and Sculptor. Memoirs with a Postscript, Bath, 2018; D. Buckman, Artists in Britain since 1945 (2 vols: A–L, M–Z), Bristol, 2006; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 14–18; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 66–68, 272–73, 382–83; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 127–28; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham, Liverpool, 1998, pp. 136–37; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, pp. 50–51, 54–55; W.J. Strachan, Open Air Sculpture in Britain, London, 1984; The Times, 19 October 1973, p. 20 (obit.); P. Usherwood et al, Public Sculpture of North-East England, Liverpool, 2000, p. 280; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 387–88; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 15–16, 28; Who Was Who.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022