Frederick E. E. Schenck (1849-1908)

[This page has been kindly contributed by David Schenck, grandson of Frederick Schenck.]

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 31st August 1849, Frederick Emil Eberhard Schenck was the second son of E E Friedrich T Schenck, FRSSA, who had emigrated from Offenbach, Germany, to settle in Edinburgh in 1840. By 1850, Friedrich Schenck appears to have been established as one of Scotland's foremost artistic lithographers, having achieved considerable distinction for his work in chalk portraiture and colour lithography.

After a formal education, Frederick Schenck spent two years working in his father's lithographic business in the partnership Schenck & Son. However, with the encouragement of his father, and Clark Stanton RSA, he adopted art as his profession and entered the Edinburgh School of Art, which became the only School outside London to be included in the 1872 prize list of the National Art Competition when Schenck won the Bronze Medal. Resulting from this, he became a National Scholar, and after three months gaining working experience with Wedgwood, spent two years at the National Art Training School, South Kensington (now the Royal College of Art). He then returned to Edinburgh in 1875, where he trained for three years in the Life Class of the Royal Scottish Academy. During this time he exhibited a number of busts at the Academy, and also commenced freelance designing and modelling for the George Jones (Crescent) Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, mainly specialising in low-relief and highly exacting pate-sur-pate work.

His first known work for George Jones is a jardiniere, inscribed 'F Schenck', the design of which was registered on 31st October 1877.

Following the completion of his course at the Royal Scottish Academy, Schenck took up an appointment as Modelling Master at Hanley School of Art, Stoke-on-Trent. On 7th August 1879, at Birmingham he married Mary Ann Goodall, whose profile is featured on some of his low relief work for George Jones. Over the next few years, he extended his freelance modelling activities, and in addition to George Jones, undertook work for Wedgwood, and also for Brown, Westhead, Moore for whom he modelled a vase, four feet in height. This was awarded the Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition held in Paris in 1889.

Towards the latter part of the 1880s, the high costs involved in producing intricate pate-sur-pate work led to a decline in manufacture, and, greatly encouraged by the response to his having exhibited a low-relief architectural panel in the Royal Academy, Schenck changed both his residence and the direction of his career. He resigned from Hanley School of Art towards the end of 1886, and in 1888 moved to London and was afterwards engaged, almost exclusively, in architectural sculpture, working in stone, plaster and terracotta. He exhibited numerous architectural panels and played an important part in the movement to encourage closer co-operation between architect and sculptor.

Schenck's first work of major importance was the Council Chamber for the Municipal Buildings in Bath, (Architect: J. M. Brydon), completed in 1895, and described by Alastair Service, in his book Edwardian Architecture, as having 'a marvel of a ceiling'.

He formed a particularly close working relationship with the architect Henry Hare, and their first project together was the County Buildings at Stafford. Here, Schenck produced relief panels of classical figures for the walls and ceilings of several rooms including the Council Chamber and the Members' Room. Subsequently, in 1896, replicas of four of the panels, Agriculture, Pottery, Ironwork and Mining, were exhibited in the Royal Academy. Schenck's other works with Henry Hare included sculptured panels for the interior of the Oxford Town Hall (1897); exterior sculptures on the Municipal Buildings and Public Baths in Shoreditch (1899); and Crewe (1903); and the Central Libraries at Hammersmith (1904/5); and Islington (1905).

Working with the architect A. Beresford Pite, he also carved the sculptures on the beautifully proportioned corner site building at 37 Harley Street (1898), and on J. B. Dunn's building for The Scotsman, in Schenck's birthplace, Edinburgh (1904).

Schenck's last major work, again with Henry Hare, was Ingram House - the famous building of the United Provident Institution at 196, Strand (1906). This building, which was generally regarded as their masterpiece, was demolished in 1961.

Schenck died, from influenza, in London on 21st February 1908.

David H J Schenck, (Grandson of F. E. E. Schenck)

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