George Tinworth (1843-1913)

The sculptor in terra cotta, George Tinworth, was born into a poor Wheelwright's family in Walworth. Despite having no friends or relatives with artistic inclinations, Tinworth wished to be a sculptor from boyhood, and would, encouraged by his mother, surreptitiously produce carvings when this father could not observe him. From 1861 he took evening classes at the Lambeth School of Art, a pupil of Sparkes. In 1864 he was able to enter the Royal Academy Schools, where he obtained various medals, and exhibited his first RA work in 1866 - a group of children fighting called Peace and Wrath in Low Life.

When his father died in 1867, Tinworth had to support his mother and himself with wheelwrighting, until his old teacher, Sparkes, introduced him to Doulton, whose firm employed him for the rest of his life. Among early sculptural works for Doulton's Tinworth produced some oversized copies of antique Greek and Italian coins, which came to the notice of John Ruskin, who was a strong supporter thereafter.

George Tinworth at work

The bulk of Tinworth's work consists of hundreds of terra cotta panels, wholly or partially in relief, showing biblical scenes. The religious work included many for various churches in England and abroad, and two big commissions from the Gothic architect G. E. Street - a reredos for York Minster (1876-9, still extant, though moved elsewhere in the Minster), and 28 semicircular panels for the Military Chapel in Wellington Barracks (mostly bombed). Secular work includes the Amazon Vase, which went to Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, and a fountain for Kennington Park in South London, destroyed except for a single extant pillar. A memorial to Fawcett in Vauxhall Park also does not survive. A panel above the entrance to the former Doulton Works in Lambeth happily does survive, and religious panels may be seen in the Museum of Garden History nearby.

Tinworth's work tends to be crowded, with extra figures and generally busy compositions with actions going on at the sides, which attracted a degree of criticism from contemporary critics. To my mind, his rather literal sculptural interpretation of mainly scriptural scenes may be compared to the more or less contemporary illustrations of religious works by the Religious Tract Society.

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