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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Felix Martin Miller (1819–1908)

British sculptor born on 8 February 1819 in Verdun, France, and christened on 11 September 1822 at Folkestone, Kent. Left fatherless at an early age, he was raised by the London Orphan Asylum (a charitable school founded in 1813 by Revd. Dr. Andrew Reed). In 1842, on the recommendation of the sculptor Henry Weekes, Miller entered the Royal Academy Schools. He was a regular exhibitor at the RA from that year until 1880 and at the British Institution, 1847 to 1866. His exhibited works were mostly of poetic subjects, many inspired by Shakespeare and Milton. In 1844 he submitted without success two models to the Westminster Hall competition, The Dying Briton and The Orphans. The latter piece, however, was commissioned in marble by his old school and was the subject of an engraving in the Illustrated London News (20 February 1847). He also produced works for replication in Parian porcelain for Minton and Copeland, a popular example of his work for the latter being Emily and the White Doe of Rylstone (a reduction of the group he exhibited at the RA, 1859). He was at his best working in relief, a strength noted by the editor of Art Journal, Samuel Carter Hall, who claimed that Miller’s bas-reliefs were ‘unsurpassed by any productions of their class in modern Art’; indeed, between 1856 and 1879, under Hall’s editorship, the magazine published five of Miller’s bas-reliefs as full-page engraved illustrations (see ‘Bibliography’ below). And yet despite Hall’s lavish promotion of his work, Miller found few patrons. Indeed, in order to make a living, he took employment as a master in the modelling class at the National Art Training School, South Kensington, 1859–91. According to Hall, Miller’s principal patron was the sculptor J.H. Foley, who ‘thought so well of Miller that he commissioned more than one of his works in marble’. Miller’s old school, in addition to commissioning The Orphans, provided two other commissions, one for a wall monument in the school’s chapel to the school’s founder (engr. in the Illustrated London News, 30 July 1864) and the other, a relief to go over the school’s main entrance (still in situ on the relocated school building – now converted to private residences – at Watford). Of Miller’s few other commissions, two may be cited. In c.1864, he was employed to carve parapet figures for the National Provincial Bank of England building in Bishopsgate, London, by its architect, John Gibson, and in 1870, his employers at the South Kensington Museum commissioned him to design three large reliefs for the corridor inside the museum’s main entrance, representing Science and Art, Industrial Science and Industrial Art, and Mechanical Science and Mechanical Art (lost in a subsequent reorganisation of the museum). Miller’s later years remain obscure; only recently has the year – 1908 – and place – Tonbridge, Kent – of his death been established.

Bibliography: Art Journal: (i) 1 October 1856, p. 316 (and engr. of Titania); (ii) 1 January 1859, p. 24 (and engr. of Emily of Rylstone); (iii) 1 January 1873, p. 28 (and engr. of Ariel); (iv) 1 April 1874, p. 124 (and engr. of Cruising among the Water-Lilies); (v) 1 October 1874, p. 306; (vi) 1 July 1879, p. 124 (and engr. of The Last Voyage); J. Bettley et al, Hertfordshire (The Buildings of England), New Haven and London, 2019, p. 613; D. Bilbey, with M. Trusted, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A concise catalogue of the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, pp. 337–39; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xvii, 165–66; Illustrated London News: (i) 20 February 1847, p. 120 (and engr. of The Orphans); (ii) 30 July 1864, p. 130 (and engr. of Dr Andrew Reed Monument); Mapping Sculpture; J. Physick, The Victoria and Albert Museum: The History of its Building, London, 1982, pp. 141–42; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; V&A – collections; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 35–37, 38.

Terry Cavanagh December 2023