William Brodie (sculptor)

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William Brodie by John Phillip William Brodie by John Phillip.jpg
William Brodie by John Phillip
William Brodie by John Phillip William Brodie by John Phillip 2.jpg
William Brodie by John Phillip

William Brodie (22 January 1815 – 30 October 1881) was a Scottish sculptor who worked in Edinburgh. [1]



He was the son of John Brodie, a Banff shipmaster, and elder brother of Alexander Brodie (1830–1867), also a sculptor. When he was about six years old, his family moved to Aberdeen. William Brodie was later apprenticed to a plumber, studying in his spare time at the Mechanic's Institute, where he amused himself by casting lead figures of well-known people. He soon began to model small medallion portraits which attracted the attention of John Hill Burton. It was Burton who encouraged him to go to Edinburgh in 1847. Here Brodie studied for four years at the Trustees' School of Design, learning to model on a larger scale, and also executing a bust of one of his earliest patrons, Lord Jeffrey. [1] At this time he lived at 14 Heriot Place in the Lauriston district of Edinburgh. [2]

About 1853 he went to Rome, where he studied under Lawrence Macdonald, and it was with the latter's assistance that he modelled "Corinna, the Lyric Muse", a work which Copeland reproduced in miniature in Parian four years later. He was elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in 1857, and Royal Scottish Academician in 1859. In 1876 he was appointed secretary of the RSA, a post he held until his death.

In 1875, he made the group of "A Peer and His Lady Doing Homage" for the Prince Consort Memorial in Edinburgh.

Brodie exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1850–1881, and at the Royal Scottish Academy, 1847–1881; at the Great Exhibition of 1851 he showed a group of "Little Nell and Her Grandfather" (characters from Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop). His most famous work is probably the Greyfriars Bobby Fountain.

Brodie died at his home at 9 Cambridge Street, [3] Edinburgh, on 30 October 1881. He is buried with his wife and daughter in the Dean Cemetery under a simple granite monument surmounted by an urn, unlike his far grander monuments to others around him. The grave lies on the north side of the main east-west path, west of the large Beattie obelisk. The urn bears a carving of a caterpillar being reborn as a butterfly, a Greek symbol indicating a belief in reincarnation or a second life beyond death.


The grave of Brodie at Dean Cemetery The grave of William Brodie RSA, Dean Cemetery.jpg
The grave of Brodie at Dean Cemetery

Brodie was married to Helen Chisholm (1817–1886). Their daughter Mary Brodie married the Edinburgh architect, Sir James Gowans. Both are buried with him in Dean Cemetery.

Trained by Brodie

List of works

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  1. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Brodie, William (1815-1881)". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1847–48
  3. Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1880–81
  4. Wikisource:Boyd, Thomas Jamieson (DNB12)

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