Sculpture as heavy industry

The following passage comes from the author's A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain, which is reviewed on this site. — George P. Landow

Sculpture-making was expensive, heavy-going and hungry of space; in both the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries it was not an occupation for the faint-hearted, nor for those afraid of high overhead costs. The younger generation that looked in awe at new work” by the cheerful Rysbrack in Westminster Abbey, Blenheim and Bristol, and” by the witty and cultivated Roubiliac in Westminster Abbey, Cambridge and Windsor, knew that they were succeeding a race of giants. These capable men had employed small armies of assistants and studio apprentices, required plenty of space for the delivery of materials and the despatch of completed works, and needed plenty of room indoors and out to build up a clay modello, raise a plaster cast and carve a marble block. Sculpture was an industry; the 'studios' at Hyde Park Corner, Westminster and Millbank became factories. They required lifting gear, rollers, wedges, hammers and crowbars, foundries and furnaces, and fresh air to disperse noxious fumes. Scheemakers, the maker of giant monuments at his works on Millbank, at under 5 feet tall was himself no giant; but given equipment and assistants, what he needed was agility, not height. The sculptor's workshop was to a painter's studio what a slaughterhouse is to a chicken run: noisier, bigger, busier, bloodier. [105/106]


Hamilton, James. A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain. London: Atlantic Books, 2014.

Last modified 15 October 2014