Friday, February 4, 2011

Victorian Venus: Eve by Sir Thomas Brock

Eve (1900) by Sir Thomas Brock

Here we have a quite wonderful late Victorian piece by Sir Thomas Brock (1847-1922) which Triple P discovered during his recent visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum (on loan from the Tate).

This is Eve (1900), a life-sized figure, which Brock had exhibited at the Royal Academy as a plaster work in 1898, completing this marble version two years later.  He also subsequently produced some smaller bronze versions as well.

Eve, bronze version

Thomas Brock was born in Worcester 1847 in Worcester.  Like Albert Toft he got his start in a ceramics factory. He attended the School of Design in Worcester where he won a box of colours at the age of ten! 

Thomas Brock in his studio, 1889

By the time he was twelve he was apprenticed in the modelling department of Kerr & Binns porcelain works. One figure that can be attributed to him from his time modelling porcelain figures is Bather surprised which he sculpted in 1868, probably as a commission, and was first released by Royal Worcester in 1875.

 Bather Surprised (1875)

At the age of nineteen he became a pupil of John Henry Foley and started his studies at the Royal Academy Schools a year after that.  When Foley died in 1874 it was Brock who completed many of Foley's commisions including, notably, the statue of Prince Albert in the Albert memorial in London.

Brock's model for the Imperial monument to Queen Victoria

Brock, like Toft, produced many monuments around the UK, such as the statue of Captain Cook in the Mall and the statue of Sir Henry Irving in Charing Cross Road.  Another famous monument by Brock is the Titanic memorial in Belfast, which was unveiled in 1920.

Titanic Memorial, Belfast

Brock's most famous work, however, is the Imperial Monument to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace which was, at the time, the largest work completed by a British sculptor. When it was unveiled on 16th May, 1911 King George V was so impressed he knighted Brock on the spot!  Others were less taken with it and The Sphere magazine printed a very harsh critique of the monument.  Even less impressed were the people of New Zealand, mention of whom had accidentally been left off the monument; something that wasn't rectified until 1922.

Unveiling of the Queen Victoria Monument, May 16th 1911
Brock's Eve is a delicate work which manages to combine a sensual quality with an impression of shame at the same time.  The modelling of the figure, particularly her legs, is quite wonderful. Unlike the Victoria monument Eve was universally praised, particularly when it was displayed at the Paris Universal Exhibition, where its naturalism and spiritualism was much appreciated

She has the look of one of JW Waterhouse's girls and her expression captures the moment when she realises excatly what she has done.  Not an evil temptress, this, but a young woman who just made the wrong choice and now, patently, regrets it.  A subtle, graceful and beautifully executed sculpture that deserves to be better known.

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