Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gatley, Alfred

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GATLEY, ALFRED (1816–1863), sculptor, was born at Kerridge, about two miles from Macclesfield in Cheshire, in 1816. While still a child he learned the use of a stonemason's tools from his father, who owned and worked two quarries in the Kerridge hills. In 1837, by the aid of a few friends, he came to London and obtained employment in the studio of Edward Hodges Baily [q. v.] He also studied in the British Museum, and two years later became a student of the Royal Academy, where he gained silver medals for modelling from the antique, and in 1841 for the first time exhibited a ‘Bust of a Gentleman.’ In 1843 he left Baily and became an assistant to Musgrave L. Watson, and in the same year he sent to the Royal Academy a marble bust of ‘Hebe,’ which was purchased by the Art Union of London and reproduced in bronze. In 1844 he received the silver medal for the best model from the life, and exhibited marble busts of ‘Cupid’ and ‘Psyche,’ and in 1846 he exhibited a bust of Marshal Espartero, and a model in bas-relief of ‘The Hours leading out the Horses of the Sun,’ now in the library of Britwell Court, Buckinghamshire. In 1848 he sent to the Royal Academy a bust of Dr. Sumner, archbishop of Canterbury, and in 1850 that of Mr. Samuel Christie-Miller, who afterwards became his steadfast friend. About 1851 he executed a bust of Richard Hooker, now in the Temple Church, but, although successful in this and other works, he saw no prospect of earning an adequate income in England, and therefore towards the end of 1852 he went to Rome, where he took a studio on the Pincian Hill, and made the acquaintance of John Gibson, whose enthusiasm for Greek art he shared. Before long he completed a bust of ‘Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude,’ and began statues of ‘Echo’ and ‘Night.’ A head in marble, ‘The Angel of Mercy,’ and a design for a mural monument were his contributions to the Royal Academy in 1853. Soon after his settlement in Rome, Mr. Christie-Miller invited him to prepare designs for the sculptural decorations of a mausoleum to be erected to the memory of Mr. William Henry Miller at Craigentinny, his estate near Edinburgh. Gatley produced a model of a large bas-relief representing ‘The Overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea,’ which was highly praised by Gibson. Early in 1855 he was entrusted with the companion bas-relief, ‘The Song of Moses and Miriam.’ The Pharaoh bas-relief was finished in time for the International Exhibition of 1862, but the ‘Song of Miriam’ was completed only just before the sculptor's death. The two bas-reliefs are in strong contrast to each other, the idea of rejoicing being as powerfully given in the one work as is that of fear and impending destruction in the other. Gatley visited England for the last time in 1862, but returned to Rome much depressed by his failure to dispose of the works which he had sent to the International Exhibition, where, besides the noble bas-relief of ‘Pharaoh,’ he exhibited his statues of ‘Echo’ and ‘Night,’ as well as four marble statuettes of recumbent animals—lions, a lioness, and a tiger—which had gained for him in Rome the name of the ‘Landseer of Sculpture.’ He died from dysentery at Rome on 28 June 1863, and was buried in the English cemetery. His portrait, painted by a Portuguese artist named Da Costa, is in the sculptor's old home at Kerridge. His statue of ‘Echo’ is in the Peel Park Museum at Salford, and there also are a marble group of ‘A Boy leading a Bull to Sacrifice,’ and busts of Euripides and Paris copied in marble from antiques in the Vatican at Rome.

[‘Our Sculptor Friend,’ by Miss M. A. Sumner, in Aunt Judy's Magazine, October 1885, pp. 722–736; Queen, 18 July 1863; Art Journal, 1863, p. 181; Athenæum, 1863, ii. 117; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1841–53.]

R. E. G.