Born in Belfast, but after the death of his father his mother brought him with her to England. In 1813, MacDowell was apprenticed to a London coachmaker, who went bankrupt before the end of his term. MacDowell, who was lodging at this time in the house of the sculptor Peter Chenu, was encouraged by Chenu’s example to take up modelling. In 1822 he had a bust accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy. MacDowell’s efforts were encouraged by other artists, and by wealthy amateurs. It was on the advice of John Constable that he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1830, and T. Wentworth Beaumont financed an eight-month study trip to Rome. After the conclusion of his studies, MacDowell built up a reputation, based mainly on his pensive and sentimental ‘ideal’ female figures, such as A Girl Reading of 1838, commissioned in marble by the Earl of Ellesmere (a plaster version is in the collection of the Royal Dublin Society). Some of these figures were nudes, conceived in a classical idiom, such as the Lea, which MacDowell executed between 1853 and 1855 for the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House. However, the list of MacDowell’s ‘ideal’ works also includes the highly dramatic Virginius and his Daughter, exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851. MacDowell executed statues of four historical figures for the Houses of Parliament. His memorial statue of the painter Turner (1851) is in St Paul’s Cathedral. MacDowell’s last work was the allegorical group of Europe for the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. He was elected Royal Academician in 1846.
Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xx, xviii, xxi, xxxiii, 164, 350, 402, 424–25, 428–29, 430, 431, 436; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, Liverpool, 1997, pp. 273–74; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 243, 248.
Philip Ward-Jackson 2023
Patrick MacDowell by Maull & Polybank, 1860-64, albumen carte-de-visite
(photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London)