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Source: The 1867 Illustrated London News. Click on image to enlarge it

Our great artists have successively departed from us so rapidly of late that it is hard to fully estimate the magnitude of our losses. When, while watching, almost day by day, the current of art, we learn the death of one who some years ago sought a quiet harbour away from all observation, we do not readily realise that we have loet an artist of European reputation, one of the chief among our poetical sculptors, who produced in his “Eve at tne fountain” probably the most popular of modern statues.

Edward Hodges Baily, one of a numerous family, was born at Bristol, in 1778, and had therefore, when he died, on the 22nd ult., attained the good old age of eighty. From his father he derived his taste for plastic art. His father was a decorative wood-carver of great ability, famous for his execution of animals, landscapes, and seapieces, but employed chiefly in producing figureheads and other ornaments for ships, which, of course, were in demand in the western port. So much artistic power did he display In his figure-heads that Flaxman is said to have remarked of one of them that few sculptors of his time could have surpassed it. The father, however, thwarted the strong early inclinations of the son for his own craft; and on taking the boy from schooL at the age of fourteen, placed him in a merchant’s counting-house. During the two years he remained in this situation, instead of losing the bias for art, young Baily contrived to learn the technicalities of wax-modelling from a Bristol artist of his acquaintance; and so rapidly did he acquire proficiency, so happy was he in his likenesses, that he actually commenced practice on his own account at sixteen. Some of his bas-relief wax medallions (a style then much in vogue for portraiture) are preserved, and are said to be remarkable for character and delicately-beautiful modelling. His ambition to work in clay—a transition analogous to that of a painter turning from miniature to oil—is said to have been accelerated by his admiration of Bacon’s monument, in Bristol Cathedral, to Mrs, Draper (the “Eliza” of Sterne).

At eighteen the sanguine young artist ventured to marry. Shortly afterwards, a Mr. Legh, a worthy surgeon of Bristol, whose name deserves to be mentioned with honour, lent him Flaxman's illustrations to Homer, commissioned subjects from two of the designs, and, pleased with their execution, gave him an introduction to the great sculptor, Flaxman, himself. At nineteen Baily repaired to London and presented his introduction to Flaxman, who, struck with the high capabilities indicated in the specimens he had brought, at once received him into his studio — the studio Flaxman built for himself, and where he died, No. 7, Buckingham-street, Fitzroy-square. Baily was connected with Flaxman more or less intimately for seven years and a half. During this period, however, he became a student of the Royal Academy, and succeeded in winning all its prizes — the gold-medal subject being “Hercules Restoring Alcestis to Admetus.” At the end of his connection with Flaxman, Baily became (on advantageous terms for a young sculptor) chief modeller and superintendent of artistic modelling to Messrs. Rundell and Bridge, the great firm of gold and silver smiths for whom Flaxman and Stothard had also largely designed and modelled. The story goes that the inception of “Eve at the Fountain” was in the shape of a handle to a tureen-cover. Be this as it may, it was during his engagement to the great Ludgate firm (who did so much more than many modern gold and silver smiths to procute worthy designs for execution in the precious metals; that Baily executed his famous “Eve,” the original of which is in the rooms of the Literary Institution, Bristol, and of which ho made five repetitions. Besides these marble repetitions, upwards of 20,000 casts of the head, and several reductions of the statue have been published. We may remark here that Haydon, in his Autobiography,” tells a story, which he had direct from the sculptor, of Baily's taking, when subsequently employed by Messrs. Storr and Mortimer, sittings of the late Duke of Wellington, which story is too illustrative of our subject's self-respect (as well as of the Duke) to be omitted. “The Duke,” says Haydon, “had written to Btorr and Mortimer that he would see Bally on Wednesday; they told him nothing of it until Wednesday afternoon. Off he set on Thursday, and came on the Duke when he was deeply studying some papers and details connected with India (I suspect the Afghanistan affair), and after keeping him a whole day which he had set aside. The Duke came down as soon as Baily was announced, and flew at him in a fury. Baily told me he included in the most violent imprecations himself with all other artists, for what he called ‘tormenting him,’ adding that his career was over at forty-seven, and asking why they could not be content with what they had done already. Baily said he bent his fist to knock the clay model to pieces; but the Duke got up on the horse, and Baily modelled away. When he had done sitting he withdrew; and Baily took his bag up to the steward, and was about to retire to the inn to dine. The steward said, ‘Sir, the Duke expects you at dinner and to sleep here.’ “Tell the Duke,’ said Baily, ‘I’ll be hanged if I dine at the table of any man who uses me as be has done.’ Baily went to the inn, and was drinking his wine when he saw a groom gallopping towards the house. He inquired for Mr. Baily. He was shown in. Baily said, ‘Tell the Duke I'll never dine at his table nor sleep at his house.’ The next day we went again. The Duke came in in a very bad temper, and said, ‘I suppose I may read my letters.’ He sat, and read, and tore open his letters in a fury. Baily finished. The Duke began to melt and excuse himself, and offered to sit again: bnt Baily declined, since then the Duke told Mortimer, the silversmith, he would sit again. I like this, as it is amiable; but Baily would not accept it. I like this burst of character, and,” adds Haydon, in naive adoration of his idol the Duke, “thank God, he is like ourselves.”

Returning to the sculptor’s earlier days, it appears that Flaxman’s conduct towards him was most generous throughout. From the first he treated him rather as a son than as an assistant; and, by afterwards aiding and recommending him, proved himself entirely free from the jealousy which sometimes accompanies genius. On leaving Flaxman, Baily took a bouse and studio No. 8, Percy-street, Tottenham-court-road; thence he removed to No. 10, in the same street, where De Wint, the water-colour painter, and Hilton, his brother-in-law, had lived before. Twenty years later he removed to the house of Bacon whose monument to Mrs. Draper had fired the Bristol lad with ambition.

From the age of twenty-five, when Baily produced the “Eve at the Fountain,” his career was one of uninterrupted success. In 1817 he was elected (together with Mr. Abraham Cooper) an Associate of the Academy, mid in 1820 an R.A, in the place of Benjamin West, the president. Little remains for us to say beyond mentioning his principal works in approximately the order they were produced. His fame rests chiefly on his poetical and classical works, the earliest of which show the influence of Flaxman in choice of subject as well as treatment—viz. “Neptune Driving off the Winds;” “Hercules Casting Lichas into the Sea” — a theme treated by Canova; “Apollo Discharging his Arrows against the Greeks,” executed for the late Earl of Egremont; “Achilles Contending with Scamander;” “Flora,” and “Helen Unveiling before Paris.” Among his principal poetical works are also “Preparing for the Bath,” “The Graces,” “Maternal Love,” “Sleeping Nymph,” the beautiful “Eve Listening to the Voice” (1841), produced as a companion to “Eve at the Fountain;” “Resignation” (1856), and “Genius” (1858), erected in the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House. He likewise executed the statue “Marius Contemplating the Ruins of Carthage.” His chief poetical works (including “Eve listening,” “The Graces,” “Maternal Love,” “The Tired Huntsman,” “Preparing for the Bath,” “Hercules and Lichas,” and minor works) are in the gallery of Guttleton House, Wiltshire, the residence of Sir John Nield, Bart, one of Baily’s principal patrons. In conjunction with the late Sir Richard Westmaoott, Mr. Bally was commissioned to execute the -sculptural decorations of Buckingham Palace, particularly the bas-reliefs of the Throne-room, and which also included the Marble Arch at Hyde Park-comer, then before the palace.

His portrait statues and public monumental works are widely distributed, and include those of Lord Egremont in the church at Petworth; Admiral Duncan; Sir Astley Cooper, at St. Paul’s; Bari Grey, colossal, for the Newcastle Column; the colossal statue of Nelson hoisted on the top of the Trafalgar-square column; Telford, the engineer, colossal; Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales; Dean Dawson, in Dublin Cathedral: Dr. Wood, in St. John’s College, Cambridge; the Bishop of Lichfield, in St. Mary’s, Shrewsbury; Lord Cornwallis; Baron Metcalfe, for Jamaica; Chief Justice Tindal; Lord Holland, a bust with large allegorical figures, in the nave of Westminster Abbey; Lord Mansfield, at Chelmsford; Charles Jomes Fox and Lord Mansfield, in St. Stephen’s Hall, Westminster; Sir Robert Peel, at Burr and Manchester: the Duke of Sussex, colossal, in Freemasons’ Tavern; and Turner the painter. Among his many busts of distinguished men are those of Flaxman, Stothard, Fuseli, Munden, Byron, Haydon, Campbell, R. Smirke, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Northcote, Lord Brougham, Lord Gough, Thalberg, Professor Owen, Sir John Herschel, Dr. Whewll. Douglas Jerrold, Robert Stephenson, and Hepworth Dixon—the sculptor’s last work, it is said. Among the eminent master's more distinguished pupils may be numbered Messrs. C. Marshall, R.A., J. Durham, A.R.A; the two Papworths, and Theed. In ‘63 Mr. Baily sat an example of unselfishness by placing his name on the new list of honorary retired Academicians. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a member of the Royal Academy of Arts of Antwerp. His remains were interred at Highgate cemetery.

The portrait is engraved from a photograph by Messrs. J. and C. Watkins, of Parliament-street.

Bibliography

“E. H. Baily, R.A.” Illustrated London News (6 June 1867): 569-70. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 11 December 2015. The passage quoted above was created using ABBYY FineReader to render the Hathi Digital Library images into text. — George P. Landow


Created 13 December 2015