Charles Ricketts (English, 1866-1931)

Charles de Sousy Ricketts was one of the most fascinating English artists and intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th century. As well as producing sculptures, Ricketts was a prolific painter, illustrator, author, printmaker, typographer and writer. He was a renowned set and costume designer for theatre, collaborating with illustrious authors such as Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.

Ricketts was born in 1866 in Geneva to an English father and a French mother. He spent his childhood in France and Italy before moving to London to study at the City and Guilds Technical Art School in 1882. He exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in 1886 and 1887.

Ricketts’ career and personal life was heavily associated with that of the painter Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863-1937), with whom he founded the magazine The Dial, as the Vale Press – a publishing venture that occupied the pair between 1896 and 1904.

Having focused primarily on painting until the early 20th century, Ricketts began to sculpt in 1906, at the age of 40, certainly under the influence of Rodin, who had become President of the International Society in 1904. Indeed, Ricketts’ sculptures testify to the great influence exercised by the French master for both their modelling and subject choices.

A bronze version of his models Orpheus and Euyridice and Mother and Child are now part of the TATE Gallery collection (London). Other sculptural works exhibited during the artist’s lifetime at the International Society include Centaur and Child (1906), Ecce Homo, Laocoon, Pieta and Nessus in 1908 and Io and the Sea Nymphs, Paolo and Francesca, Faust and Chiron and The Good Samaritan (1909).

Ricketts’ artistic merits were recognised by the Royal Academy in 1922, which elected him to the post of Associate. The artist became a full Royal Academician six years later, in 1928. As well as at the TATE Gallery, Ricketts’ works are also held in important UK museum collections, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum (London) and the National Galleries of Scotland (Edinburgh), among others.