Sculptor born in London, the sixth son of the Revd Nugent Wade, then rector of St Anne’s, Soho. Wade had no formal art training and became a sculptor only by chance. A painter in his spare time, on a visit to Italy he was introduced to the art patron Sir Coutts Lindsay who, on seeing one of Wade’s sketches, not only advised him to take up art full time, but also provided him with a studio in London. Wade later abandoned painting when he discovered a greater aptitude for sculpture. In 1889, he made his first appearance at the RA with a bronze bust of Lt.-Col. Myles Sandys, MP. In the following year his terracotta statuette of a grenadier guard attracted the attention of Queen Victoria who purchased a cast in bronze; one hundred further casts were purchased by the regiment. Another exhibit, his terracotta bust of his father (now Canon Wade) sufficiently impressed Joseph Edgar Boehm, Sculptor-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria, that the latter offered to pass on to him any commissions he could not himself undertake. Indeed, following Boehm’s death at the end of the year, Wade took over his studio and executed his mentor’s commission for the statue of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, for Hong Kong (destroyed in the Second World War). There followed a long line of other royal commissions, including: a Diamond Jubilee statue of Queen Victoria for Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1897, and another for Allahabad, India, 1906; statues of King Edward VII for Reading, 1902, Madras (Chennai), 1902, Bootle, 1904, and Hong Kong, 1907; of Queen Alexandra for the Royal London Hospital, Mile End Road, 1908, and for Hong Kong, 1909; of King George V, 1907, for Hong Kong and 1911, Bombay (Mumbai); and of Queen Mary, 1909, for Hong Kong. (Wade’s three statues for Hong Kong were destroyed in the Second World War.) Other notable public commissions include a statue of Sir William Rose Mansfield, 1st Baron Sandhurst, for Bombay, c.1899; an equestrian statue of Earl Haig for Edinburgh, c.1920–23; and statues of General William Booth and Catherine Booth, c.1927–29, for William Booth College, Camberwell, London. Three bronze casts of his statue of Sir John A. MacDonald (RA 1893), Canada’s first prime minister, were commissioned for Montreal, Quebec, and Hamilton and Kingston, Ontario; the first two were toppled by Indigenous Rights protestors in August 2020 and August 2021 respectively, and the third was removed by the authorities in June 2021. Wade’s war memorials include the 79th Cameron Highlanders, 1893, Inverness, Scotland, and two for the South African war, each topped with his bronze figure of ‘Peace’, at Norwich, England, 1904, and Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, 1907. M.H. Spielmann perhaps provided the most apposite explanation for Wade’s remarkable commercial success: ‘It cannot be said that there is any striking style or marked individuality in the work of Mr. Wade, or that the modelling calls for special comment. But it must surely be accounted to the credit of the sculptor that in his portrait busts and statues his gentlemen look like gentlemen, and his ladies lady-like – a virtue which cannot be claimed by some sculptors who are cleverer modellers and greater artists.’
Sources: Baldry, A.L., ‘Our Rising Artists: George E. Wade, Sculptor’, Magazine of Art, 1900, pp. 545–48; Gray. A.S., Edwardian Architecture, London, 1985; Hutchison, S.C., ‘Wade, George Edward (1853-1933)’, ODNB, (2004), rev. edn. 2020; Illustrated London News, 21 December 1901, p. 972 (‘The Sculptor of the King’s Statue for India. Mr. G.E. Wade and his Work’); Maidenhead Heritage Centre (‘George Edward Wade 1853–1933’); Mapping Sculpture; Quinlan, M., British War Memorials, Hertford, 2005, p. 319; Spielmann, M.H., British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-day, London, 1901, pp. 141–42; Who Was Who, 2007.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
George Edward Wade working on his statue of John A. MacDonald, 1892 (photo: public domain, via Wikipedia)