George Gammon Adams (1821-1898)

Medal for 1851 Exhibition by G. G. Adams.

The portrait sculptor and medallist George Gammon (sometimes Gamon) Adams studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1840, and had a year in Rome under John Gibson six years later. He came to note through success in various competitions, and after exhibiting works at the Great Exhibition (and designing prize medals for it), in 1852 was chosen to model the death mask of Wellington, afterwards making a marble bust of this. Subsequently, he was commissioned to produce several public monuments, and also modelled a series of busts of the great and the good, mostly in the 1850s and 1860s.

Adams’ work was of variable quality – of his statue of Napier in Trafalgar Square, the Art Journal wrote

‘the slightest attention to natural form and movement is all that is necessary for the condemnation of the statue of Gen Napier, in Trafalgar Sq, as perhaps the worst piece of sculpture in England. The moral and relative worthlessness of the work exceeds tenfold its formal imperfection. To see in these days a mass so dull and soulless… for how much so ever we may pardon our great men for the good they have done their country, we can never forgive their re-appearance among us in such guise as they present themselves in Trafalgar Square.’

His style was rather severe, cold, understated but serious, and his statues tend to the unsentimental. I have seen little of his female subjects, but the designs for a couple of his medals, and a calm angel on a wall monument in St Stephens Rochester Row, London, show he could put a delicacy into his work too.

Apart from the unfortunate Trafalgar Square Napier, we may note among his other public works monuments to Napier and others in St Paul's, Cobden for Stockport, a good Baron Seaton in Winchester and Devonport, the Dean of Ripon for St George’s Hall, Liverpool , and a bronze Wellington for Norwich somewhat lacking in presence.

Baron Seaton, for Winchester.

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