Richard Garbe RA (1876-1957)

Detail of Thames House, Southwark Bridge, by Richard Garbe.

Richard Garbe was one of a rather small number of prominent sculptors in the earlier part of the 20th century, whose formative years were in late Victorian and Edwardian times, and kept some sympathy with those eras in their own work. Garbe trained under his father, a craftsman in metal and ivory, and then at the Central School of Arts (where he was later taught sculpture), and the Royal Academy Schools. He exhibited at the RA from 1908, was elected ARA in 1929, in which year he was appointed professor of sculpture at the RCA, and he became a full Academician in 1936.

Garbe’s peak output was in the 1920s and 1930s, and therefore typically art deco, though as often with long wavy haired girls as much as short haired ones. His earlier work is more Victorian in sympathy. As well as statues, Garbe kept his early interest in craftsmanship, and produced a variety of ivory carvings, wood, and figurines (typically standing art deco girls of an allegorical nature) for reproduction in porcelain by Doulton.

Among his architectural work, his principle groups are the Medieval Age and Modern Age for the front of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, solid, blocky groups with a pyramidal composition. In London, a building called Thames House on the northern approach to Southwark Bridge has several groups and high relief figures by Garbe, all rather splendid. In Southampton Row, close to Holborn Station almost opposite Sicilian Avenue, is a rather good stone statue of Bunyan in a niche, dated 1953, so towards the end of his career (pictured on the Kingsway walk); and just round the corner from that, at 114-115 High Holborn, very high up and easy to miss, are Edward I and Edward VII, the latter of which is pictured on this page.

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