John Bacon the Elder, RA (1740-1799)

John Bacon Sr's The Thames, Richmond.

An illustrious 18th Century sculptor, responsible for some important monuments, and a variety of statues in London and elsewhere. He was born in Southwark, son of a clothworker, learnt modelling under a porcelain maker in Lambeth, and by 1867 had become a modeller for Mrs Coade’s Lambeth factory, also studying at the RA Schools from the following year. He later also worked for Wedgwood. He was elected ARA in 1770, and full Academician in 1777, and it was from around this time that he began to win major commissions for sculptural works, including in 1779 the monument to Chatham in Westminster Abbey.

Also in Westminster Abbey may be seen his monuments to the Earl of Halifax, Thomas Gray, General Hope, and William Mason. In St Paul's are his statues of John Howard, William Jones and Dr Johnson. Among many others, we might mention that in Salisbury Cathedral is his monument to Jacob Harris, in Bath Abbey Lady Miller, in Bristol Cathedral, Elizabeth Draper, and John Johnson in Leicester.

His best known work in London is George III and the River Thames in the courtyard of Somerset House. Also in London are his William III (completed by his son), the sculptures on the façade of Trinity House, near the Tower of London, and the statues etc on the front of Guy’s Hospital.

Bacon’s girls are classical, comely, full-figured and in Hellenistic drapery. His men are cast more as Roman senators, noble and patrician. There is, it is true, some repetition in his work, but the excellence and sympathy of the figures mark out his work.

At least two of his sons, Thomas Bacon and the much more notable John Bacon Jr, became sculptors.

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