Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Park, Patric

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PARK, PATRIC (1811–1855), sculptor, son of Matthew Park, came of ancestors who had long been farmers or ‘portioners’ near Carmunnock, Lanarkshire, whence his grandfather removed to the neighbouring city of Glasgow, settling there as a mason and builder. The sculptor's father, Matthew, followed the same occupation, and married, in 1806, Catherine, daughter of Robert Lang, a wood-merchant in Hamilton. Patric (the old Scottish spelling adopted by the sculptor), their third child of a family of six, was born on 12 Feb. 1811. He attended school at Duntocher, Old Kilpatrick, and afterwards studied in the grammar school, now high school, Glasgow, where he remained till the age of fourteen, distinguishing himself in the classics, and remarked for his unusually retentive memory. Then, by the advice of David Hamilton, the architect, he was apprenticed to Connell, a builder engaged in the erection of Hamilton Palace. He worked chiefly as a stone-cutter, and the skill with the chisel then obtained rendered him in after-life much more independent of the clay model than is the case with most sculptors. He found time meanwhile to prosecute the study of drawing, mathematics, and French; and he executed, from an engraving, a carving of the Hamilton arms, which was shown to the duke, and led to the boy of sixteen being entrusted to carve the armorial bearings that appear above the grand entrance of the palace. After three years under Connell, he was employed by Gillespie, the architect, on the carvings at Murthly Castle, an engagement lasting two years, the winter months being devoted to art study in Edinburgh.

Alexander, duke of Hamilton, had been much interested in the young artist; and when Park started for Rome in October 1831, he furnished him with an introduction to Thorwaldsen, under whom Park studied for two years, and for whose character and art he always entertained the deepest admiration. It is said that when he had completed an important statue, and placed it in position for his master's inspection, it was accidentally overturned during the night and destroyed; whereupon the sculptor—now, as always, the most impulsive of men—at once locked his studio-door, quitted Rome, and returned to his native country. This was towards the end of 1833. He now started an ambitious career as a sculptor, with statues of ‘Ixion on the Wheel,’ ‘Hector,’ ‘Mercury,’ ‘Genius Bound,’ and a series of other classical subjects; but, as ideal art wins little bread in Britain, he also occupied himself with portraiture, the Dukes of Hamilton and Newcastle being among his earliest sitters, followed by Campbell the poet, Sir William Allan, Charles Dickens (thrice), Sir Charles Napier, Lord Dundonald, Macaulay, John Foster, Sir George Cockburn, Sir John Bowring, John Landseer the engraver; and among portrait-groups, one of Lord Lovelace's children, executed for Lady Noel Byron. Other more important works of this period were the full-length statue of Michael Thomas Sadler [q. v.], shown in the Royal Academy of 1837, the first year Park exhibited there, and erected in Leeds in 1841; the colossal statue of Charles Tennant, in the Glasgow Necropolis; and colossal figures for the grand staircase at Hamilton Palace—a commission which occasioned much unpleasantness, on account of the work being withdrawn from Park and placed in the hands of Marochetti. He also competed, unsuccessfully, for the Scott monument, Edinburgh; and in a letter to the Duke of Wellington, he offered, for ‘the Glory of my Art, in honour of the immortal Nelson, and to show the world the enthusiasm of the British Artist for the dignity and elevation of his Country,’ to complete the Nelson monument in Trafalgar Square, London, by filling the four panels in the pedestal with marble or bronze alto-relievos of the hero at Cape St. Vincent, at Copenhagen, at the Nile, and at Trafalgar; an offer which (Oxford Herald, 27 July 1844) would have involved ‘even for him, an artist,’ a sum of 5, 000l., which he was ‘prepared to guarantee by requisite sureties.’ The offer was declined; and in the following month government voted 8,000l. for the completion of the monument.

On 15 Oct. 1844 Park married Robina Roberts, second daughter of Robert Carruthers [q. v.] of the ‘Inverness Courier.’ Mrs. Park's sister Mary became wife of Alexander Munro [q. v.] the sculptor, who worked for a time in his brother-in-law's studio. After his marriage, Park resided for a year in Glasgow, where he executed busts of the Bairds of Gartsherrie; and after a brief stay in London he in 1848 settled in York Place, Edinburgh. In November of the following year he was elected A.R.S.A.; in February 1851, R.S.A.; and between 1839 and 1856 he exhibited nearly ninety works in the Royal Scottish Academy, showing in 1849 no fewer than thirteen. During his residence in Edinburgh he modelled a colossal statue of Wallace, carrying up and working with his own hands seven tons of the clay required; undoubtedly injuring his health by the over-exertion, and, by the outlay necessary, involving himself in serious pecuniary difficulties. His busts of the period included those of the Countess of Zetland, Lady Elcho, William Fraser-Tytler, and Lord Justice-general Boyle. In 1852 he removed to Manchester, where he portrayed many local celebrities; and, unsuccessfully, submitted a pyramidal model, adorned with five statues surrounding a central figure, for the Wellington monument. In 1854 he received sittings in Paris from Napoleon III for a bust commissioned by William, duke of Hamilton, one of his most successful works. It was damaged on its way for exhibition in the Salon; but, skilfully repaired, is now in the South Kensington Museum, while another version is in Hamilton Palace. For some time his health had been failing; ardent in all he did, he was constantly overtaxing an originally powerful constitution. The immediate cause of his death, at Warrington, Lancashire, 16 Aug. 1855, was his characteristic good-hearted recklessness, manifested in assisting an old man whom he saw staggering under a hamper of ice. The sudden and violent strain induced hæmorrhage, which proved fatal. Distinguished by a cultivated mind, full of all generous impulses, Park warmly attached himself to his friends; but his want of worldly wisdom frequently interfered with his obtaining those great public commissions which would have given adequate scope to his genius. He is best known by his portrait-busts, which are full of grace, masculine vigour, character, and individuality. By examples of these his art is represented in the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Scottish National and National Portrait Galleries, Edinburgh, and the Corporation Galleries, Glasgow. He lectured on art subjects in Edinburgh and elsewhere; and was author of a letter to Archibald Alison, LL.D., ‘On the Use of Drapery in Portrait Sculpture,’ printed for private circulation in 1846.

[Information from the sculptor's son, Patric Park, jun.; Charles Mackay in Gentleman's Magazine, November 1884; Anderson's Scottish Nation.]

J. M. G.