Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Theed, William

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THEED, WILLIAM (1804–1891), sculptor, son of William Theed, was born at Trentham, Staffordshire, in 1804.

William Theed, the father (1764–1817), was born in 1764, and entered the schools of the Royal Academy in 1786. He began life as a painter of classical subjects and portraits, and exhibited first at the Royal Academy in 1789. He then went to Rome, where he became acquainted with John Flaxman and Henry Howard. In 1794 he returned through France to England. In 1797 he exhibited a picture of ‘Venus and Cupids,’ in 1799 ‘Nessus and Deianeira,’ and in 1800 ‘Cephalus and Aurora.’ He then began to design and model pottery for Messrs. Wedgwood, and continued in their employ until about 1803, when he transferred his services to Messrs. Rundell & Bridge, whose gold and silver plate he designed for fourteen years. During this time he continued to exhibit occasionally at the Royal Academy, of which he was elected an associate in 1811 and an academician in 1813, when he presented as his diploma work a ‘Bacchanalian Group’ in bronze. In 1812 he exhibited a life-sized group in bronze of ‘Thetis returning from Vulcan with Arms for Achilles,’ now in the possession of the queen, and in 1813 a statue of ‘Mercury.’ His latest exhibited works were of a monumental character. He died in 1817. He married a French lady named Rougeot at Naples about 1794 (Redgrave, Dict. of Artists; Sandby, Hist. of the Royal Academy, 1862, i. 382; Royal Academy Exhib. Catalogues, 1789–1817).

William Theed the younger, after receiving a general education at Ealing and some instruction in art from his father, entered the studio of Edward Hodges Baily [q. v.], the sculptor, and was also for some time a student in the Royal Academy. In 1824 and 1825 he sent busts to the exhibition of the Royal Academy, and in 1826 went to Rome, where he studied under Thorvaldsen, Gibson, Wyatt, and Tenerani. He sent over several busts to exhibitions of the Royal Academy, but his works did not attract much attention until, in 1844, the prince consort requested John Gibson to send designs by English sculptors in Rome for marble statues for the decoration of Osborne House. Among those selected were Theed's ‘Narcissus at the Fountain’ and ‘Psyche lamenting the loss of Cupid.’

In 1847 he sent to the Royal Academy a marble group of ‘The Prodigal Son.’ He returned to London in 1848, when commissions began to flow in upon him. In 1850 he exhibited at the Royal Academy a marble statue of ‘Rebekah’ and another group of ‘The Prodigal Son,’ and in 1851 a marble heroic statue of ‘Prometheus.’ These works were followed in 1853 by a statue in marble of Humphrey Chetham for Manchester Cathedral; in 1857 by ‘The Bard,’ for the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House, London; in 1861 by a statue of Sir William Peel, for Greenwich Hospital; in 1866 by ‘Musidora,’ now at Marlborough House; and in 1868 by the group of the queen and the prince consort in early Saxon costume, which is now at Windsor Castle. His other works of importance include the bronze statue of Sir Isaac Newton which is at Grantham, the colossal statue of Sir William Peel at Calcutta, the statues of the prince consort for Balmoral Castle and Coburg, that of the Duchess of Kent at Frogmore, of the Earl of Derby at Liverpool, of Sir Robert Peel at Huddersfield, of William Ewart Gladstone in the town-hall, Manchester, of Henry Hallam in St. Paul's Cathedral, and that of Edmund Burke in St. Stephen's Hall in the houses of parliament. He executed also a series of twelve alto-relievos in bronze of subjects from English history for the decoration of the Prince's Chamber in the House of Lords.

The most important and best known, however, of Theed's works is the colossal group representing ‘Africa’ which adorns the north-east angle of the pedestal of the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. Among his busts may be mentioned those of the queen and the prince consort, of John Gibson, Lord Lawrence, the Earls of Derby and Dartmouth, Sir Henry Holland, bart., Sir William Tite, General Lord Sandhurst, John Bright, William Ewart Gladstone, Sir Francis Goldsmid, bart., Sir James Mackintosh in Westminster Abbey, and that of the Marquis of Salisbury, his last exhibited work. His ‘Prodigal Son,’ ‘Sappho,’ ‘Ruth,’ and ‘Africa’ were engraved in the ‘Art Journal.’

Theed died at Campden Lodge, Kensington, on 9 Sept. 1891.

[Times, 11 Sept. 1891; Athenæum, 1891, ii. 393; Art Journal, 1891, p. 352; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1824–85.]

R. E. G.