The sculptor Charles John Allen was born in Greenford, Middlesex, and studied at the Lambeth School of Art, South London. He was then apprenticed to Farmer and Brindley of Westminster Bridge Road, the well-known manufacturers of architectural sculpture, where he made wood and stone carvings. In 1887 he attended the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1890, while in his second term, became studio assistant to Hamo Thornycroft, remaining with him for four years, and helping with such works as the John Bright in Rochdale and the Institute of Chartered Accountants friezes in London. His first work exhibited at the Royal Academy was called Love Flies from the Doubting Soul, in 1890). In 1895 he was appointed Instructor in Sculpture and Modelling at Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Arts, where he became friends with Anning Bell, who was teaching decoration and stained glass. In that year his Love and the Mermaid was cast in bronze for the Liverpool permanent art collection, and the same work won a gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900.
Allen's chief work was the Queen Victoria Memorial in Derby Square, Liverpool (1902-5), and he also made two panels for the exterior of St George's Hall, reliefs for the Royal Insurance Buildings, and other architectural sculpture in the same city. Early work by Allen, when he worked for Powell and sons, includes wood carvings at St Albans Cathedral, decorations for various Oxford Colleges, and a marble reredos at St Pauls Cathedral in London. His later work included various ideal groups and single statuettes, typically unclad, such as A Dream of Love (1895) in the possession of the Birmingham gallery. Allen's ideal works, and his portrait sculpture too, often have a slightly sad expression.
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