Sir William Reid Dick
Signed and dated Reid Dick ARA/1924
Plaster with wash
Height: 44” (112 cm)
Conceived and modelled in 1924
Provenance: Studio of the artist c.1924; Family of the artist, by descent.
Sir William Reid Dick’s sculptural production was much indebted to the work of New Sculpture artists, but also steeped in Rodin’s end-of-the-century lessons, representing a unique form of artistic expression in England during the first half of the 20th century.
Reid Dick was born in Glasgow in 1878 in a working-class family. He received limited schooling and started training as a stonemason in his early teens and then worked as a carver on the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. There, he met George Frampton – the superintending sculptor – and Francis Derwent-Wood, who was working temporarily on the project. This encounter represented a key moment in the career of the artist, who left his job as stonemason and started training at the Glasgow School of Art.
Reid Dick moved to London in 1908 to pursue his career as a professional sculptor. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and at the Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers. His success was almost immediate. The model Sling Boy was shown at the Royal Academy in 1911, leading to an abundance of official commissions for monuments and statues.
The long and distinguished list of such public monuments includes the Kitchener Memorial Chapel in St Paul’s Cathedral, the Lion on the Menim Gates at Ypres, the equestrian group entitled Controlled Energy at Unilever House (London), the Eagle on top of the Royal Airforce Memorial at Embankment, and the statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Grosvenor Square.
The present work is part of such a list of public and monumental works produced by the sculptor. The Spinner was commissioned as a sculptural feature of Vigo House, on Regent Street, in Central London. The present piece is the plaster model for the stone figure which was placed on its façade in 1925 and can be still seen in situ today.
The Spinner, Vigo House, London
Vigo House, London
The building was designed by the Scottish architect John Burnet for the Glasgow-based clothing company R.W. Forsyth. It is therefore unsurprising that the choice of the artist for the composition fell on Reid Dick, who, much like architect and retailer, had Glaswegian roots but resided in London.
Sir William Reid Dick working on the plaster of The Spinner, ca 1924
The final location of the sculpture fundamentally influenced its iconography. The Spinner sits cross-legged, holding a spindle in her left hand and threads in her right one; the figure’s clothing – seemingly a long-sleeved peplos – and sandals reference the attire of ancient Greek women, bringing to mind the mythological figure of Clotho, one of the three Fates, who was responsible for spinning the thread of human life. Placed on the façade of Vigo House, The Spinner functioned as a visual exemplification of the building and its commissioner.
In 1926, a bronze reduction of the model was cast and exhibited at the Royal Academy, cementing his growing reputation in Britain; the sculptor was elected Royal Academician in 1928. He was appointed President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1935, holding the post for three years and received his knighthood in the same year. King George VI appointed him King’s Sculptor between 1938 and 1952. Last in a long list of honours, he was appointed Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland from 1952 until his death in 1961.