Arthur George Walker
(British, 1861 - 1936)
Bronze with dark brown and black patination
Height: 21 3/16" (53.6 cm)
Conceived and cast circa 1896
‘The Thorn, full of grace and charm, with as much elegance in the pose as in the action, is probably the most completely successful of Mr. Walker’s ideal statuettes’
H.M. Spielmann, British Sculpture and the Sculptors of Today, 1901, p.100
The present bronze shows a youthful female figure bending over with her right arm and fingers outstretched to reach the heel of her right foot, which is raised on a rock beneath her. Her gestures are elegant, and her mouth is slightly curved, displaying a sense of calm surprise or poised agitation.
Walker derived a great deal of inspiration from ancient Greek statuary for the definition and modelling of the present subject. In fact, the Boy with Thorn is one of the most famous Hellenistic bronze sculptures to have survived in multiple copies and variations to the present day. Walker here reinterprets the subject substituting the male figure with a female one, and changing the sitting composition of the Classical sculpture to a standing one.
Walker’s model was hailed by the critics as one of the sculptor’s greatest accomplishments. This view was shared by many of Walker’s own colleagues, as can be seen in Bertram Mackennal’s sculpture of Diana Wounded (c. 1907), currently part of the TATE Britain collection.
Walker first produced a large, 148cm tall version of the The Thorn around 1896, exhibiting it for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1903. The piece was purchased in 1910 by Carl Jacobsen, son of Jacob Jacobsen and one of the heirs of the Carlsberg brewing empire. Jacobsen had a great interest in ancient Greek and Roman statuary and contributed to the founding of the Ny Carslberg Glyptotek – one of the most important Danish art museums, based in Copenhagen. The Thorn was donated to the museum in 1910 and is still part of the collection to this day.
By the time of The Thorn’s conception, the ‘cult’ of the statuette for the home was widespread among the British public, who would seek after popular models exhibited at the Royal Academy and praised by critics. The present bronze is a reduction of the larger model in bronze, produced by the artist for the burgeoning collector’s market.