‘Mr. Drury is among the most personal of our sculptors, always in search of the graceful, the tender, the placid, and the harmonious’
M.H. Spielmann, British Sculpture and the Sculptors of Today, 1901, p.109
Alfred Briscoe Drury was born in London in 1856 and initially studied at the Oxford School of Art and later under Aimé-Jules Dalou at the National Art Training School (now the Royal Academy) in South Kensington. Dalou had migrated from France in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, contributing to the development of art in London before returning to Paris in 1881. Drury followed Dalou to Paris, wishing to learn from him and other masters of the French School.
In 1885, the artist returned to England, first as a teacher at the Wimbledon School of Art, and then joining the studio of the successful sculptor and medallist, Joseph Edgar Boehm. Drury first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885, becoming an Associate in 1900. In 1909, France recognised his contribution to the art world by awarding him a national honour.
Drury’s career was mostly concentrated on portrait busts. His most famous works in this style are the models for St Agnes (1896), Age of Innocence (1896), and Griselda (1898). At the same time, Drury also demonstrated his fondness for the poetics of the New Sculpture movement by engaging with idealised, classicising portrayals of mythological and allegorical subjects. Among these, one should mention Circe 1893, which was exhibited in Brussels and Paris and won medals at both international venues, Evening (1898) and Spring (1905).
Having established himself as one of the leading sculptors of the late 19th century, Drury was commissioned to produce numerous public works in the last decades of his career. Such commissions dramatically influenced the landscape of London, and include the stone groups Sorrow and Joy, Horror and Dignity, Truth and Justice and Victory and Fame on the south-west side of the War Office (1905), the four allegorical bronzes of Education, Fine Art, Science and Local Government for Vauxhall Bridge (1905), as well as the statue of Joshua Reynolds for the courtyard of the Royal Academy (1917). Drury died a successful artist in his Wimbledon home in 1944.