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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Robert Tait McKenzie (1867–1938)

Canadian sculptor and medical practitioner, born in Almonte, Ontario, of Scottish parents. Graduating with an MD from McGill University, Montreal, in 1892, he began his medical career at Montreal General Hospital, later serving as a ship’s surgeon before becoming House Physician to the Governor-General of Canada in 1897. His work as a lecturer in anatomy and Medical Director in Physical Training at McGill University led him to the subject of ‘artistic anatomy’, and in 1902 he began to contribute sculptures, ‘chiefly athletic in character’, to the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon. Thereafter, his development as an artist and his work as a Professor of Physical Education at the University of Pennsylvania were closely intertwined, and in 1912 he was awarded the King of Sweden’s Medal for his sculptures at the Olympic Games in Stockholm. His concern for the promotion of physical health also led to a close involvement with the American Boy Scout movement, which in turn generated a sculptural response in such works as the monument to The Ideal Boy Scout in Philadelphia (erected 1937, removed 2014), where McKenzie lived from 1904. His public sculptures in the United Kingdom include The Homecoming, Cambridge (1922); the Scottish American War Memorial, Edinburgh (1923–27); and the statue of General James Wolfe, Greenwich (1930). His work is well represented in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland, which includes casts of the bronze statuettes, The Athlete (1903) and The Relay (1909), and the half-life-size The Modern Discus Thrower (1927).

Bibliography: W.T. Johnston, Dictionary of Scottish Artists (c.2000), Scottish National Library, ref CD-ROM.585; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 2, pp. 316–21; Philadelphia Public Art: The Ideal Boy Scout; The Scotsman, 3 May 1938, p. 10.

Ray McKenzie 2018

McKenzie, Robert Tait

Robert Tait McKenzie, c.1910–c.1915, Bain News Service (photo: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)