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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Oliver Wheatley (1868–1931)

Sculptor born in Handsworth, Birmingham. He studied at Birmingham School of Art, 1888–91, and was awarded a national scholarship to enter the National Art Training School, South Kensington, where he won a Gold Medal and Travelling Scholarship. Wheatley exhibited widely in his early years, with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, and at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition and the Royal Academy (RA). His address in the 1895 RA catalogue, a Paris hotel, is consistent with M.H. Spielmann’s statement that Wheatley had received some training in the atelier of the French symbolist painter Aman-Jean. Wheatley also worked for a time as an assistant to the sculptor Thomas Brock. The Studio, March 1906, p. 132, illustrated Wheatley’s relief panels for an organ case, shown at that year’s Arts and Crafts Exhibition at the Grafton Gallery, London, representing child musicians framed within decorative foliage. Wheatley’s only major public sculpture commissions were his high relief figures of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren, 1905, on Aston Webb’s Victoria and Albert Museum frontage, and Electricity and Speed, 1899, for the old Bank Underground railway station, City of London. He evidently suffered from a mental illness in his later years, the RA nominations book for 26 March 1920 noting: ‘certified in lunatic asylum’. Wheatley died at St Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton, of aortic valve disease.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 168, 169, 170; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 398–99; Mapping Sculpture; M.H. Spielmann, British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-day, London, 1901; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, p. 221.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022