Francis Derwent Wood
Signed F. Derwent Wood
Bronze with a dark brown patination on a green marble base
Height: 23 3/4" (60.4 cm)
Conceived and cast circa 1900
Francis Derwent Wood was born in Cumberland in 1871 and after a brief period studying in Karlsruhe, Germany, returned to England in 1889. He continued his studies in London under Edouard Lanteri at the Royal College of Art whilst also developing his modelling skills at ceramists Maw & Co, and later Coalbrookdale Iron Co.
Following his studies, Derwent-Wood worked under the sculptors Alphonse Legros and Sir Thomas Brock and in 1895 he achieved the RA’s Gold medal with his bronze group Daedalus and Icarus, which is now exhibited at the Bristol Art Museum and Gallery. Derwent-Wood would go on to become a founding member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and a leading figure in the English New Sculpture Movement of the late 19th and early 20th Century.
In 1914, at the onset of World War I, Derwent-Wood was already 41 and too old to enlist. Instead, the sculptor began volunteering at hospitals that specialised in treating wounded soldiers, developing a new technique for sculpting portrait masks for those soldiers who had facial wounds. These masks were cast in copper and hand finished in enamel flesh toned paint by Derwent-Wood to give an accurate likeness of the wounded soldier.
Following the war, Derwent-Wood was commissioned to design the Machine Gun Corps Memorial, which was erected in 1925 and currently stands at Hyde Park Corner, London. The monument, arguably his most famous work, depicts the nude figure of David flanked by Vickers gun encased in bronze and laurel-wreathed.
Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Bronze and Marble, Hyde Park Corner, London
Other monuments by the artist include the Memorial to Major General Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Status of Atalanta at the Chelsea Embankment and Britannia Persian Scarf Dancer at Finsbury Circus. His work can also be seen at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, where four of his sculptures adorn the outer architecture. Derwent-Wood’s work also resides in all major British public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Britain, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Derwent-Wood worked on a series of truncated female bodies in the first decade of the 20th century. The form was obviously one he particularly enjoyed, as we know he held a pencil drawing by Alphonse Legros in his personal collection (now in the collection of the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., USA). Legros was a French teacher of etching at the South Kensington School of Art, and in 1876 Slade Professor at University College, London. Legros was important to the New Sculpture movement, having close links to Jules-Aimes Dalou, and Auguste Rodin, and therefore acting as a bridge between France and England, and their respective artists.
Alphonse Legros, Torso, graphite on laid paper, National Gallery, Washington
Another female form by Derwent Wood is held in Cartright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford. A different plaster was also given to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Derwent-Wood’s widow, since transferred to Tate, London (Torso of a Girl, 1902, plaster. Exhibited: International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Carvers, New Gallery, January–March 1904 (351); Franco-British Exhibition, 1908 (1411); Works by the late Sir Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., and F. Derwent Wood, R.A., RA winter 1927)
Another version, with cropped legs was exhibited at the Venice Biennale, in 1910.
Francis Derwent-Wood, Torso de Donna, bronze 1900.
A further marble version was also recorded in ‘Sculptures from "Academy architecture," 1904-1908,’ titled: Study of a Female Nude. This work’s location is now unrecorded.
Francis Derwent-Wood, Study of a Female Nude, 1905.
The current model was held in the collection of the esteemed architect Sir James Stirling, who counted the Clore Gallery for the Turner Collection at the Tate Britain, amongst his numerous important commissions. After his death, the bronze was loaned to the National Trust, Scotland.