William Grinsell Nicholl (1796-1871)

Panel on the Oxford and Cambridge Club, by W.G. Nicholl.

The sculptor WG Nicholl is best known as the artist of the Fitzwilliam Museum pediment, in Cambridge, and for his four giant lions in stone outside St Georgeís Hall, Liverpool.

He was born in 1796, and in 1822 was a student at the Royal Academy, exhibiting there from that year through until 1861. George Basevi, the architect employed him (including on the Fitzwilliam), and much later, he worked for C. R. Cockerell, but for a considerable period of his life he does not seem to have been that prosperous or successful.

His architectural sculpture includes as well as the Fitzwilliam, the panels on the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall, carvings for the Taylorian Institute, Oxford, and pedimental sculpture for St Georgeís Hall, Liverpool, later removed, and, I think, destroyed.

Still intact by St Georgeís Hall, are four giant lions by Nicholl, and mermaid and merman lampholders. On the former India Office (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in Whitehall, he is responsible for the statues of Cornwallis, and Clive of India. He made at least a few church monuments, including one to J. Hippisley, d.1825, in Temple Church, and in Chatham Parish Church, a glum bust of John Law, Archdeacon of Rochester.

From the works I have seen, it is not easy to characterise Nichollís work. The Liverpool lions are solid, grand. The mermaid and mermen lampholders have a solid mass to them also. The Taylorian Institute has panels showing heraldic winged lions in high relief, too formalised to show much individuality of the artist. There are four statues on the front of that building, very worn, which I am not certain are by Nicholl, but are comparable to his work elsewhere. The panels on the Oxford and Cambridge club show short, stocky figures, simply draped and well composed for their setting. One characteristic, along with the chunkiness of his figures, would seem to be a rather hooded look to their eyes.

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