Thomas Banks

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Thomas Banks (December 29, 1735 – February 2, 1805), English sculptor, son of a surveyor who was land steward to the Duke of Beaufort, was born in London. He was taught drawing by his father, and in 1750 was apprenticed to a woodcarver. In his spare time he worked at sculpture, spending his evenings in the studio of the Flemish émigré sculptor Peter Scheemakers. Before 1772, when he obtained a travelling studentship given by the Royal Academy and proceeded to Rome, he had already exhibited several fine works.

Returning to England in 1779 he found that the taste for classic poetry, ever the source of his inspiration, no longer existed, and he spent two years in Saint Petersburg, being employed by the empress Catherine the Great, who purchased his "Cupid tormenting a Butterfly". On his return he modelled his colossal "Achilles mourning the loss of Briseis", a work full of force and passion; and then he was elected, in 1784, an associate of the Royal Academy and in the following year a full member.

Among other works in St Paul's Cathedral are the monuments to Captain Westcott and Captain Burges, and in Westminster Abbey to Sir Eyre Coote. His bust of Warren Hastings is in the National Portrait Gallery. Banks's best-known work is perhaps the colossal group of Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry, now in the garden of New Place, Stratford-on-Avon. The high-relief sculpture was commissioned in 1788 to be placed in a recess in the upper façade of John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall. Banks was paid 500 guineas for the group which depicts Shakespeare, reclining against a rock, between the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting. Beneath it was panelled pedestal inscribed 'He was a Man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.' The sculpture remained in Pall Mall until the building was demolished in 1868 or 1869, when it was moved to New Place.[1]

Banks died in London on 2 February 1805.


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