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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

John Birnie Philip (1824–1875)

Sculptor, born in London. He entered the Government School of Design at Somerset House in 1842 at the age of 17. His tutor, the painter J.R. Herbert, introduced him to Pugin who employed him in his wood carving department at the Houses of Parliament. Philip visited Rome, 1848–49. He enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration with George Gilbert Scott and executed for him sculpture for church restorations, e.g., Evangelist figures and St Michael overcoming Satan tympanum relief for St Michael Cornhill, c.1856–1860; the font, reredos, and Katherine Parr Monument for St Mary’s Church, Sudeley, Gloucestershire, 1859–63; and the figures on the crossing screen (manufactured by F. Skidmore) at Lichfield Cathedral, 1859–63. He also executed sculpture for Scott’s public monuments, e.g., the Westminster Scholars Crimean War Memorial, 1859–61, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster; and the Albert Memorial, 1862–72; and also sculptures for Scott’s buildings, e.g., the spandrel reliefs (shared with H.H. Armstead) on the Colonial Office at Whitehall, 1873–75. Philip also worked for Francis Butler, modelling a figure of Peace, 1871–73, for his fountain in West Smithfield Gardens, City of London. In addition, he executed a handful of public statues: Richard Oastler, 1869, Bradford; Robert Hall, 1870, Leicester; and Colonel Akroyd, 1875, Akroydon, near Halifax. This last was completed, following Philip’s death from bronchitis, by his chief assistant modeller, Ceccardo Egidio Fucigna; other known assistants in his large studio include Robert Glassby and Edwin Roscoe Mullins. Birnie Philip lived at 1 Roehampton Place, Vauxhall Bridge Road (c.1858–c. 1863); West Pavilion, Hans Place (c.1867– c.1870); and Merton Villa, 280A King’s Road (c.1871–1875). Two oil-on-board paintings by James Digman Wingfield of the interior of his studio at Merton Villa are held at Chelsea Library. These were presented by Philip’s younger daughter, Rosalind, his executrix; his older daughter, Beatrice, was married to the architect E.W. Godwin and following his death, to the painter James McNeil Whistler. Birnie Philip is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

Bibliography: The Academy, 13 March 1875, p. 278 (obit. by W.M. Rossetti); Art Journal, 1 May 1875, p. 144 (obit.); T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 62–64, 406–14, 416–18, 419–20, 421, 428, 429, 430, 431, 433, 434, 473; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Leicestershire and Rutland, Liverpool, 2000, pp. 86, 90–91; Illustrated London News, 13 March 1875, p. 258 (obit.); London Reader, 10 April 1875, p. 564 (obit.); Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, p. 224; Oxford Art Online – Grove Art Online; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, pp. 15–16; M. Stocker, ‘Philip, John Birnie (1824–1875)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 40, 89–90, 436–38; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 11–13; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 218, 222.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022