Sculptor born in Glasgow. In 1890, after studying part-time at Glasgow School of Art while working as an assistant in the studios of George Lawson, James Ewing, and Pittendrigh McGillivray, Tweed moved to London. He successfully applied to work in Hamo Thornycroft’s studio and, on Thornycroft’s insistence, attended the South London Technical Art School, Lambeth, and subsequently the RA Schools. In 1893, he went to Paris where he became friends with Rodin and briefly studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Falguière. On his return to London, Tweed obtained a commission, through his friend Edwin Lutyens, to execute a bronze relief for Cecil Rhodes’s residence, Groote Schuur, Cape Town, South Africa; several more South African commissions followed. In 1901, Tweed was commissioned to complete Alfred Stevens’ Duke of Wellington Memorial for St Paul’s; unveiled 1912. In the same year his reredos for Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, Chelsea, was installed. Tweed’s friendship with Rodin culminated in an exhibition of the latter’s sculpture in London in 1914, which Rodin subsequently presented to the nation (the 18 sculptures are in the V&A Museum). The style of Tweed’s many public statues – mostly ‘men of action’ – is typified by what The Times referred to as ‘bluff common sense’. The most important are Lieutenant-Colonel Benson, 1904, Hexham, Northumberland; Charles Compton, 3rd Baron Chesham, 1910, Aylesbury, Bucks; Captain Cook, 1912, Whitby, Yorks (replica, 1914, Melbourne, Australia); and Lord Clive, 1912, Sir George White, 1922, and Lord Kitchener, 1926, all London. Tweed’s ‘masculine’ style also found an outlet in war and regimental memorials, such as the Rifle Brigade Memorial, 1925, London; Barnsley War Memorial, 1925; and the Peers’ War Memorial, 1932, Palace of Westminster. For most of his time in London, Tweed lived in Chelsea, firstly at 14A Cheyne Row then, from c.1900, at 108 Cheyne Walk – marked, since 1985, by a blue plaque (with an incorrect birth date). The John Tweed archive is at the Reading Museum.
Sources: Capon, N., John Tweed. Sculpting the Empire, Reading, 2013; Mapping Sculpture; Stocker, M., ‘Tweed, John (1869–1933)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; The Times, 13 November 1933, p. 19 (obit.).
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
John Tweed, Bassano Ltd, 1921, whole-plate glass negative (photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London)