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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

John Rhind (1828–1892)

Sculptor. Born in Banff, Aberdeenshire, he was descended from a family of master masons trading in the town since the early eighteenth century. After serving his own apprenticeship as a builder he moved to Edinburgh with the intention of studying architecture, but decided instead to join the sculpture workshop of Alexander Handyside Ritchie, for whom he acted as chief assistant for several years. Setting up his own studio in 1858, he became the dominant figure in architectural sculpture in Edinburgh throughout the 1860s and 1870s and, according to his obituarist in the Scotsman, there were few Scottish sculptors who ‘knew better than he how to apply his art to its primitive use – the ornamentation and decoration of public buildings’. Rhind produced the figures for the temporary buildings at the International Exhibitions in Edinburgh in 1886 and 1890, and made major contributions to several exterior architectural schemes in Scotland, including the Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh (1867–68), the Municipal Buildings, Greenock (1886), the City Chambers, Glasgow (1888), and the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (1888–89); his allegorical reliefs of Agriculture and Shipbuilding in the New County Hall, Paisley, completed in 1891, were among his last and arguably finest achievements. In portraiture, his subjects included William Ewart Gladstone, who sat for him at Dalmeny House, the seat of Lord Rosebery, in 1885, and he also included a bust of the Marquis of Tweeddale in his monument to him in Haddington, East Lothian (1880), and a full-length statue of William Chambers in his monument to him in Edinburgh (1888–91). He was the brother of the sculptor Alexander Rhind (1834–1886) and the father of two sculptors: William Birnie Rhind (1853–1933), with whom he collaborated on many of his later works, and John Massey Rhind (1858–1936), who achieved success in New York. His third son, Sir T. Duncan Rhind, was an architect, and his daughter, Jessie A. Rhind, a painter and book illustrator. He contributed regularly to the Royal Scottish Academy annual exhibitions between 1857 and 1892, but was not elected ARSA until a few days before his death, prompting the Scotsman to complain that his ‘beard grew grey while waiting for the Academic honour which he was too self-respecting to solicit’.

Bibliography: P.J.M. McEwan, The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, 2004; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, passim; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool, 2002, p. 155; Scotsman, 6 April 1892, p. 6 (obit.).

Ray McKenzie 2018