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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Peter Slater (1809–1870)

Born in Edinburgh, the son of a marble and stone cutter with premises on Picardy Place, he worked as an assistant to Samuel Joseph, accompanying him when he relocated to London in 1828, and remaining with him for another four years. In 1831 he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools on the recommendation of the painter William Collins (not, as is often erroneously stated, the writer Wilkie Collins, who was seven years old at the time). He returned to Edinburgh in 1833, occupying successive studios at Union Street, George Street, Elder Street, and Broughton Street, before moving back to London where he died on 27 December 1870. He exhibited subject pieces, including a work entitled Canute Reproving his Flatterers (1844), which famously prompted the dismissive retort from the Literary Gazette that ‘we must decline being one’. His public statues include two figures – Ellen Douglas (1844–45) and George Heriot (1854) – for George Meikle Kemp’s Monument to Sir Walter Scott, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh; Revd Dr Andrew Bell (c.1848) on the façade of the former Dr Bell’s School, Leith; and James Watt (after Francis Chantrey) (1852–54), Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh. The bulk of his surviving work, however, is in portrait busts, including those of Professor James Pillans (marble; University of Edinburgh, 1852) and Lord Jeffrey (marble; Faculty of Procurators, Glasgow, 1853), and John Napier of Merchiston (plaster; collection of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; copied from a marble original exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1842). He was also almost certainly responsible for the monument to Napier in the entrance porch of St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Lothian Road, Edinburgh.

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. 1, pp. 15–22, 23, 83, 252, vol. 2, pp. 99, 131–35, 253, 259–60, 347, 428–30, 508, 509; Roscoe, I., et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; Scotsman, 29 November 1870, p. 8f.

Ray McKenzie 2018