Born in the hamlet of Greenhead in Northumberland, son of a blacksmith and smallholder. Lough trained with a local stonemason, and carved some architectural decorations in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, before travelling to London in 1826, where he joined the Royal Academy Schools. In the following year, he exhibited his Milo and a group of Samson and the Philistines in the Great Rooms in Maddox Street. Lough was acclaimed by the Literary Gazette an ‘extraordinary genius’, and the exhibition became a social event, attended by the Duke of Wellington and the aged Sarah Siddons. Lough was befriended at this time by the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, and found supporters amongst the aristocracy and landed gentry. He spent three years from 1834 to 1836 in Rome, on an allowance from the Duke of Northumberland. On his return he devoted himself to the illustration of English literature. A series of Shakespearean statues, commissioned by Sir Matthew White Ridley, was executed between 1843 and 1855. At the Westminster Hall exhibition of 1844, and again at the Crystal Palace in 1851, Lough exhibited a group entitled The Mourners, in which a dead knight was shown, lamented by his beloved and by his trusty steed. This proved widely popular, though condemned by the Art Journal for its ‘maudlin sentimentality’. Whilst it is widely agreed that Lough was at his best in imaginary subjects, he also received several important commissions for portrait statues, including Lord Collingwood for Tynemouth (1842), Queen Victoria (1844–45) and Prince Albert (1845–47) for the Royal Exchange, and George Stephenson for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1842). Lough produced many portrait busts and church monuments. Although he exhibited there from 1826 to 1863, he was never elected to the Royal Academy.
Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xxxiii, 204–05; D.A. Cross, Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria, Liverpool, 2017, pp. 173–74; J. Lough and E. Merson, John Graham Lough 1798–1876, a Northern Sculptor, Woodbridge, 1987; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, p. 127; P. Usherwood et al, Public Sculpture of North-East England, Liverpool, 2000, pp. 149–52, 207–09; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 247–48, 326–27.
Philip Ward-Jackson 2003
Ralph Hedley, John Graham Lough in his Studio, oil on canvas, 1881; Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (photo: public domain)