Sculptor born at Canterbury. In 1822 he began a five-year apprenticeship with William Behnes and in the following year entered the RA Schools where in 1826 he won a silver medal for the best model from the antique. In 1827, he became an assistant to Francis Chantrey. After Chantrey’s death in 1841, Weekes purchased his former master’s studio at 96 Buckingham Palace Road and completed a number of his works including the equestrian Duke of Wellington (1841–44; Royal Exchange). He exhibited at the RA 1828–77 and at the British Institution 1850–66. He was elected ARA 1851 and RA 1863, and was Professor of Sculpture at the RA Schools, 1868–76. Weekes is chiefly known as a portrait-sculptor and in 1838 was commissioned by Queen Victoria to execute her bust, the first following her accession to the throne. Among Weekes’s most successful full-length portrait statues are those of Francis Bacon, 1845, Trinity College, Cambridge, and John Hunter, 1864, Royal College of Surgeons. In 1856, he executed Sardanapalus, one of a series of figures based upon themes from English literature commissioned by the Corporation of London from the leading sculptors of the day for the Egyptian Hall, Mansion House. Weekes also produced numerous church monuments, his masterpieces in this field being those to Samuel and Elizabeth Whitbread, 1849, Cardington, Bedfordshire, and Percy Bysshe Shelley,, 1854, Christchurch Priory, Hampshire. The most important of his public sculptures were for Sir George Gilbert Scott: the figures of Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer for the Martyr’s Memorial, 1841–43, Oxford, and the group, ‘Manufactures’, 1864–70, for the Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens. Weekes was an accomplished writer on art, his essay on the Fine Art Section of the Great Exhibition of 1851 earning him a gold medal. His RA Schools lectures were published posthumously as Lectures on Art in 1880 and were described by Benedict Read as ‘the most consistent and intelligent exposition of sculptural thinking in the Victorian era’.
Sources: Read, B., Victorian Art, New Haven and London, 1982; Roscoe, I., A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; Stevens, S., ‘Weekes, Henry (1807–1877)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; Royal Academy of Arts website; information from RA archives.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
Henry Weekes, albumen print mounted on card with printed name (photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographers: John & Charles Watkins, fl.1857–1876)