Mary Thornycroft (née Francis) (1809 – 1 February 1895) was a British sculptor
The daughter of sculptor John Francis and his wife Mary, Thornycroft was born at Thornham in Norfolk. She studied sculpture under her father, and exhibited her works at the Royal Academy of Arts at age 21.
In 1840, she married Thomas Thornycroft, a student of her father. The couple travelled to Italy and lived and worked for a time in Rome. While in Rome, Mary Thornycroft became friends with the sculptors Bertel Thorvaldsen and John Gibson. On her return to London, Gibson recommended her services to Queen Victoria.
Moreover, Gibson’s recommendation of Mary is what marked the beginning of her sequence of royal commissions lasting from 1844-1877.
Thornycroft created numerous busts and statues for the Queen, chiefly of the royal children. The drawing-room at Osborne House contained nine life-size marble statues of the young princes and princesses that were modeled by Thornycroft. She also executed a number of busts of private individuals, as well as a few ideal statues. Among the latter is her well-known figure of a 'Skipping Girl'.Most of her works were portraits of the royal children that were commissioned by Queen Victoria.
Thornycroft gave sculpting lessons to Princess Louise who was one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, she eventually became a sculptor herself.
Thornycroft died on 1 February 1895.
The Thornycrofts had six children who grew to adulthood, two sons (Hamo and John Isaac), and four daughters (Alyce, Theresa, Helen and Frances). Hamo Thornycroft became a sculptor while daughters Alyce, Theresa Thornycroft, and Helen Thornycroft became artists. John Isaac Thornycroft became a marine engineer.
The Thornycrofts were the grandparents of Siegfried Sassoon, the war poet, through their daughter Theresa, who married Alfred Ezra Sassoon.
Mary Thornycroft was hired as a sculptor by Queen Victoria. Thornycroft sculpted many different busts, fragments, and sculptures that are now within the Royal Collection. Her first ever sculpture that was exhibited in the Royal Collection was a bust of her father in 1835. As a woman, she had a limited choice of commissions, but she took the opportunity to choose infants and children as her subjects.
One specific collection called "The Four Seasons" was intended to be carried out by John Gibson; however, he was unavailable for the commission and referred Thornycroft for the job. Her work on the "Four Seasons" collection launched her career as an artist. Through this opportunity she became a significant commissioner for the Royal Collection from years 1844 to 1877.[ citation needed ]
Mary Thornycroft's primary artistic practice was sculpture. Three main categories of her practice were busts, fragments, and full body compositions. The materials she specialized with were marble and sometimes bronze. Thornycroft's style was naturalistic and she could execute the age of the subject very well. The details that she accomplished in her sculptures actively displayed personalized expressions of each subject she sculpted. Due to her being a woman her commissions were limited therefore, she capitalized on her craft on subjects that were easily reachable for her to study these subjects being infants and children. This was an advantage because this is how she gained these notable commissions.
She was well known for her commission of Four Seasons as well as, her sculpture Skipping Girl and Skipping Rope. Her fragment sculptures are interesting and were requested upon Queen Victoria. These fragments were to capture the likeness and act of souvenirs of her children. These are interesting due to them being made of marble, which is associated with funerary ideas. However, all of Queen Victoria’s children survived past childhood.
The details that she accomplished in her sculptures actively displayed personalized expressions of each subject she sculpted. Her style of each sculpture evoke "ideal" figures.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). "Thornycroft, Mary". Dictionary of National Biography . 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
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