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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Alfred Turner (1874–1940)

Sculptor. The son of the sculptor Charles Edward Halsey Turner, he trained at the South London Technical Art School in Kennington before going on to the Royal Academy Schools (1895–98) where in 1896 he won the first prize for a model of a design and the second prize for a set of three models of a figure. He also worked as an assistant in the studio of the sculptor Harry Bates. Towards the end of the 1890s Turner travelled in Italy and probably also visited Paris. His statues of a Fisherman and Fisher Girl (1899–1902), for the Fishmongers’ Hall in the City of London, strike a note of raw realism unusual in British sculpture of these years. After completing these, Turner went on to execute memorial statues of Queen Victoria for Delhi, Tynemouth and Sheffield. In the years leading up to the First World War, Turner’s mythological and symbolist subjects exhibit increasingly soft and seductive surfaces. This tendency reached a climax after the war, in 1919, with his statue of Psyche, now in Tate Britain. In 1924 Turner collaborated with the architect Herbert Baker on the South African (First World War) National Memorial for Delville Wood, Longueval, France. Turner’s bronze group surmounting the memorial represents Castor and Pollux, symbolising the British and Dutch populations of South Africa, restraining a wild horse. In Turner’s works of the 1930s, such as The Hand, in Tate Britain, the poetry of the creative act is suggested by smooth bodies emerging from the rough-hewn block of marble. Turner was reputed to have been an early apostle of direct carving. He was a member of the Society (later Royal Society) of British Sculptors from 1905 and was elected a Fellow in 1923 (council member 1924–25). He was elected an Associate Royal Academician in 1922 and a full RA in 1931; the sculpture he submitted as his Diploma Work was Dreams of Youth (1932). His daughter, Winifred, was also a sculptor of some distinction.

Bibliography: Alfred and Winifred Turner, exh. cat. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, June–October 1988, with text by N. Penny; Mapping Sculpture; Royal Academy of Arts: ‘Alfred Turner RA (1874–1940)’; P. Usherwood et al, Public Sculpture of North-East England, Liverpool, 2000, pp. 206–07; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. xxv, xxvi, 62, 65–66, 280; D. White and E. Norman, Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Liverpool, 2015, pp. xiii, xviii, 137–39.

Philip Ward-Jackson, 2003; revised Terry Cavanagh, May 2024