Charles Bell Birch (1832-1893)

The sculptor C. B. Birch was born in Brixton, London, but received most of his art training in Berlin, where his family moved while he was a child. His master at the German Academy of Arts was Christian Ranch. He returned to England aged 20, and entered the Royal Academy Schools. He won a 500 prize in an Art Union of London competition for a Wood Nymph. He was elected ARA in 1880, following the success of his Lieutenant Hamilton memorial. Birch's career was somewhat up and down, with periods of success and decline. Nor was he able to manage his financial affairs well. In later years, Birch suffered poor health and a declining output, and at his death, a contemporary journal wrote that

'The property of the late Mr C B Birch ARA amounted to no more than 277. These are parlous times for sculptors not in the fashion...'

Birch was a versatile artist, who tried all forms of sculpture, and painted portraits and water-colour pictures at times too. However, his style was more or less set by his training in Berlin, with what has been described as 'a naturalistic veneer upon a classical foundation'.

His most familiar work in London includes the Griffin at Temple Bar in the Strand - more a spiky dragon really - and the Queen Victoria on New Bridge Street by Blackfriars Bridge (see the walk there or the perambulation from the bridge). The latter is familiar not just in London - identical ones were made for Scarborough Town Hall gardens, Derby Royal Infirmary, Newcastle Under Lyme (Station Walks Park), Aberdeen, Guernsey, in Australia in Victoria Square, Adelaide, and, apparently, for Oodeypore in India.

The Last Call

A plaster copy of Birch's Lieutentant Hamilton memorial may be seen in the National Army Museum, near Sloane Square in London. The Chadwick Memorial in Bolton, Victoria Square, is by him, as is the Earl of Dudley in Castle Street, Dudley. Outside St George's Hall, Liverpool, are his portrait statues of General Earle, and a very good Disraeli (pictured on that page). Indeed, his portraiture was considered one of his particular strengths.

Finally, Birch was one of the four artists asked to model equestrian statues in the ultimately doomed venture to place sculpture on Blackfriars Bridge.

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