Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Boehm, Joseph Edgar

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1416798Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 1 — Boehm, Joseph Edgar1901Walter Armstrong

BOEHM, Sir JOSEPH EDGAR, first baronet (1834–1890), sculptor, was born at Vienna on 4 July 1834. He was of Hungarian nationality; but his father, Joseph Daniel Boehm (1794–1865), was director of the imperial mint of Vienna. He married, on 5 Feb. 1825, Louisa Anna, daughter of Dominick Lussman, inspector of imperial chateaux in Luxemburg at Hetzendorf. The elder Boehm was a man of taste, and had formed a collection of fragments of antique sculpture. From these the son may have received his first impetus towards modelling, but in the end it was rather by the Italians of the Renaissance than by the Greeks and Romans that he was mainly influenced. In 1848 he came to England, where he worked for three years, chiefly in the British Museum. After this he studied in Italy, Paris, and Vienna, winning the 'First Imperial Prize' in the latter city in 1856. In 1862 he settled in London, and took out letters of naturalisation three years later. In the year of his arrival he made his début at the Royal Academy with a bust in the then unfamiliar material, terra cotta. In 1863 he exhibited statuettes in the same material of Millais and his wife. Boehm's work soon became popular, and, from about 1865 to the end of his life, commissions came to him in an unbroken stream from fashionable patrons as well as from the government. For some years he had almost a monopoly in providing statues of public men and of members of the royal family. His works are so numerous that it is impossible to give anything like a complete list of them here. Among the more notable are, in London: Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, Lord Beaconsfield, and Dean Stanley, in Westminster Abbey; the Wellington monument at Hyde Park Corner; Lord Lawrence, Sir John Burgoyne, and Lord Napier of Magdala, in Waterloo Place; Carlyle and William Tyndale on the Embankment; and Darwin in the Natural History Museum; in Bombay, the equestrian statue of the prince of Wales; in Calcutta, that of Lord Napier of Magdala, of which the group in Waterloo Place is a replica; at Colombo, Sir William Gregory; and in Canterbury Cathedral, the recumbent figure of Archbishop Tait. He also produced statues of Queen Victoria, of the first king of the Belgians, of the Duke of Kent, Princess Alice and her daughters, Prince Leopold, and Dean Wellesley. All these are at Windsor, where also the recumbent figure of the prince imperial, excluded from Westminster Abbey by popular objections, has found a place. Among his innumerable busts are those of Gladstone, Huxley, Lord Rosebery, Lord Russell, Lord Wolseley, Lord Shaftesbury, and Millais, the last-named in the Diploma Gallery at Burlington House. His last important work was a statue of the German Emperor Frederick for Windsor Castle. Among his few 'ideal' works the best known, and perhaps the best, is the 'Young Bull.'

Boehm was elected an A.R.A. in 1878, and an R. A. in 1880. He was a member of several foreign academies, lecturer on sculpture at the Royal Academy, and sculptor-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. He was created a baronet on 13 July 1889. He married, on 20 June 1860, Louise Frances, daughter of F. L. Boteler of West Derby, Liverpool. He died in his studio, at 25 Wetherby Gardens, London, very suddenly, on 12 Dec. 1890, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his only son, Edgar Collins Boehm.

As a practical sculptor Sir Edgar Boehm takes a high place in the English school, but as an artist he scarcely deserved the patronage he received. In the large bronze population with which he endowed his adopted country, it would be difficult to find a single true work of art, while some of his productions, notably the Wellington group at Hyde Park Corner, fall lamentably short of their purpose.

[Athenæum, 1890, ii. 861; Men of the Time, 13th edit.; Burke's Peerage, 1890.]

W. A.