John Henry Foley, Sculptor

(b. 1818, d. 1874)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

John Henry Foley. Picture by Thomas Mogford; in National Gallery of Ireland.

He was born at No. 6 Montgomery Street, Dublin, on 24th May, 1818, and was baptized on the 8th June following in St. Thomas's Church. His father, Jesse Foley, a native of Winchester, had settled early in life in Dublin where he was employed in a glass manufactory, and had later a grocer's shop in Mecklenburg Street. He married on 28th February, 1812, Eliza Byrne. John Henry, the second son, received but a slender education, and such as he afterwards acquired was through his own industry and love of reading. Influenced by the example of his elder brother Edward, who had adopted sculpture as a profession, he at the age of 13, in 1831, entered the schools of the Royal Dublin Society, and there worked assiduously, carrying off prizes for modelling and drawing, and in 1833 the principal medal. In March, 1834, he left Dublin and joined his brother Edward in London, and in the following year became a student in the Royal Academy where he devoted himself entirely to sculpture. He won the large silver medal, and in 1839 exhibited in the Academy his "Death of Abel" and "Innocence," both of which attracted attention. His group of "Ino and Bacchus," exhibited in the following year, added to his growing reputation and was commissioned by Lord Ellesmere to be executed in marble.

Other ideal groups followed in 1841 and 1842, and in 1844 he sent his "Youth at the Stream" to the exhibition in Westminster Hall of the works of competitors for the decoration of the Houses of Parliament. As a result he was commissioned to execute statues of Hampden and Selden for the adornment of St. Stephen's Hall. Orders for busts and statues began to flow in upon him, and the young artist found himself in the front rank of sculptors in England. In 1849 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1858 a Member; the Royal Hibernian Academy, where he exhibited from 1844 to 1847,and in 1861 and 1863, gave him its membership in 1861. His "Hampden," finished in 1847, one of the most striking statues in St. Stephen's Hall, increased his reputation, which was more than maintained by his equestrian statues of "Lord Hardinge" and "Sir James Outram," works which in their extraordinary vigour, originality and freshness of conception, had not been approached before by any English sculptor.

Among others of his important works were his "Egeria" and "Caractacus," both executed for the Corporation of London; his statues of "Burke" and "Goldsmith" for Trinity College, Dublin, and the figure of "The Prince Consort" and the group of "Asia," both for the Albert Memorial in London. He also did many portrait busts and church monuments. He did not exhibit in the Royal Academy after 1861, owing to some difference which arose about the arrangement of the sculpture in the next year's exhibition. The number of works exhibited by him there was forty-nine, and he had eight at various times in the British Institution.

John Henry Foley. Wood-cut in "Illustrated London News," 12th September, 1874.

At the age of forty Foley had reached, solely through his own merits and independent of the trammels of patronage, the highest place in his profession. His success was due not only to his own powers as an artist, but to his resolution, his conscientiousness and his enormous capacity for work. As an instance of his indefatigable labour and his striving for perfection, he was for twelve years engaged upon his statue of Outram, and even after it had been cast he continued his work upon it, and where he thought his modelling defective had pieces of bronze cast and let in. This extreme care made him slow in carrying out his commissions; his studio was always filled with marbles, casts and designs in every stage of progress, and during the last few years of his life, when his health had become impaired, he was obliged to decline many orders.

In his work as a sculptor Foley was, at his best, superior to any of his contemporaries. He threw aside to a great extent the worn-out formulae of the imitators of the works of the Graeco-Roman decadence and the false canons of Canova and his school, whose conventional sculpture had neither life nor originality. Though he never attained to the consummate achievement of inspired art his work, especially his equestrian statues, show a vitality, a knowledge and sense of structure and movement, and a decorative feeling, which were absent in the cold and lifeless works of his contemporaries. In such a work as his "Outram" he displays a daring originality, and a mastery of modelling hitherto unapproached.

During his latter years the sculptor had several important works in hand, several of which he left at his death to be finished by his pupils and assistants: "General Jackson," for the United States; "Lord Canning," for Calcutta; "Lord Gough" and "Sir Benjamin Guinness," for Dublin; "William Rathbone," for Liverpool, and "Michael Faraday." In 1866 he was given the commission to execute the O'Connell Monument for Dublin, after much discussion and bickering by the Committee and in spite of objections made by a clique against giving the work to "a London artist." He had completed the sketch models and was engaged on the full-sized clay models when his death intervened to stop the carrying out of what he had looked forward to as the crowning work of his career. He had for some time suffered from ill-health, a pleuritic effusion brought on in 1871 from exposure to cold while modelling his group of "Asia." He died in his house, the Priory, Hampstead, on 27th August, 1874, and was buried in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral on the 4th September. His wife, Mary Anne Grey, survived him and afterwards married a Mr. Mumford. In his will, made shortly before his death, he provided for his widow and two unmarried sisters (one of whom, Louisa, is still living), and devised the bulk of his property to the Artists' Benevolent Fund. He bequeathed his casts in his studio to Dublin, to be placed in a gallery in the Royal Dublin Society's house or in its school where he had received his first art teaching. The Society was unable to provide the space, the Corporation of Dublin refused to take charge of the casts, and the National Gallery does not appear to have made any effort to obtain them. Five years after, however, a selection was placed in the hall of Leinster House; others were subsequently added, and the collection is now in the National Museum, Kildare Street.

When Foley went to London he at first lived with his brother at 16 Buckingham Street, and afterwards from 1839 at 59 George Street, Euston Square. From there he moved in 1848 to 19 Osnaburgh Street, where he had his studio for some years, afterwards to No. 1 o in the same street where he built a large studio. After his marriage he lived at Hampstead, still retaining his studio in Osnaburgh Street.


G. B. Airey, Astronomer Royal. R.A., 1858.

Albert, Prince Consort. Colossal seated figure. In bronze, gilt. [Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens.] The work was given to Foley after Marochetti's design had been rejected by the Committee. Unveiled 9th March, 1876. Engraved by W. Roffe in "Art Journal," 1877.

Albert, Prince Consort. Marble Statue. [Cambridge.] R.A., 1875, after the Sculptor's death.

Albert, Prince Consort. Statue. [Birmingham.]

Albert, Prince Consort. Statue in bronze. [Leinster Lawn, Dublin.]

Sir James Annesley. Bust. R.A., 1848.

James Oliver Annesley, eldest son of Sir James Annesley. Posthumous bust. R.A., 1845.

Sir Charles Barry. Marble statue. [Westminster Palace.]

Sir Charles Barry. Bust.

Mrs. Boustead. Statuette.

Major-General The Hon. Robert Bruce. Monument. [Dumfermline Abbey.] Done in 1866; erected in 1868. Engraved in "Art Journal," 1866, by R. A. Artlett.

Edmund Burke. Bronze statue. [In front of Trinity College, Dublin.] Erected in 1868. Original plaster model in Birmingham Gallery.

Lord Canning. Equestrian statue, in bronze. [Calcutta.] Left unfinished by Foley and completed from his small model by Messrs. Brock and Dewick, his assistants.

Lord Canning. Statue. [Westminster Abbey.]

G. W. F., 7th Earl of Carlisle, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Bronze statue. [People's Garden, Phoenix Park, Dublin.] Erected in 1870.

Lord Clive. Statue. [Shrewsbury.]

Field-Marshal Lord Clyde. Bronze statue. [George's Square, Glasgow.]

Sir William Cornwallis, G.C.B., Capt. John Whitby and his wife Mary Anne Theresa Whitby. Marble monument. [Milford Church, Hants.] Portion ex. as "Grief" in R.A., 1852.

Sir Dominic Corrigan. Marble statue. [College of Physicians, Dublin.] Unveiled in the Hall of the College, 3rd June, 1869.

William Robert Dickinson. Bust. R.A., 1841.

Ulick, Lord Dunkellin, M.P. Bronze statue. [Eyre Square, Galway.] Erected in 1873.

John, 13th Lord Elphinstone. Marble statue. [Bombay.]

Michael Faraday. Marble statue. Executed from the model, after artist's death by Birch.

Michael Faraday. Bust.

W. Farren. Bust. R.A., 1842.

Helen Faucit. Bust. R.A., 1843.

Helen Faucit. Figure in alto-relievo. R.A., 1856. Engraved by J. Brown, in "Art Journal," 1858.

John Fielden, M.P. Statue. [Todmorden.]

John Purcell Fitzgerald. Bust. R.A., 1860.

Major-General William Nairn Forbes, Master of the Calcutta Mint. Posthumous bust. [The Mint, Calcutta.] R.A., 1858. A plaster cast belongs to the Asiatic Society, Calcutta.

Oliver Goldsmith. Bronze Statue. [In front of Trinity College, Dublin.] Design in R.A., 1861. Erected in 1863. The original plaster model is in the Birmingham Gallery. Engraved by G. Stodart in "Art Journal," 1865.

Hugh, 1st Viscount Gough. Equestrian statue in bronze. [Phoenix Park, Dublin.] Cast from the metal of guns taken during the Sikh campaign. As the funds available were insufficient Foley used the same model for the horse as that of Lord Hardinge's. Completed after the sculptor's death by Messrs. Brock, Birch and Dewick, named in Foley's will to complete his unfinished works. Unveiled February 21st, 1880.

Henry Grattan. Statue. [College Green, Dublin.] Unveiled on 6th January, 1876.

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, Bart. Bronze statue, a seated figure. [In church-yard of St. Patrick's Cathedral,] R.A., 1875. Erected in 1875.

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness. Bust. [Lord Iveagh.]

John Hampden. Marble statue. [St. Stephen's Hall, Westminster Palace.] Done in 1847.

General Lord Hardinge, G.C.B. Equestrian statue in bronze. [Calcutta.] Done in 1858.

General Lord Hardinge. Bust.

Mrs. Samuel R. Healey. Posthumous bust. R.A., 1860.

Lord Herbert of Lea. Bronze statue. [War Office, London.] Done in 1866; unveiled 1st June, 1867. Round the base are bas-reliefs representing (1) Florence Nightingale at the Herbert Hospital; (2) Volunteers on the March; (3) Casting and testing the first Armstrong gun at Woolwich; (4) Armorial bearings of the family.

Adrian Hope. Bust.

Sir Charles Hulse, Bart. Posthumous bust. R.A., 1856.

Lady Hulse. Bust. R.A., 1856.

General T. J. ("Stonewall") Jackson. Bronze statue. [Lexington, Virginia, U.S.A.] Presented by friends in Great Britain. R.A., 1875. Engraved in "Art Journal," 1877, by H. Balding.

John Jones, of Crosswood, near Welshpool. Monument erected by his children. [Guilfield Church, near Welshpool]. Model in R.A., 1859. Represents the three daughters mourning at the tomb of their father.

Mr. Littledale. Bust.

John McHale, Archbp. of Tuam. Bronze statue. [Tuam.]

Manochjee Nesserwanjee. Statue. [Bombay.]

Sir Henry Marsh. Statue. [Royal College of Physicians, Dublin.] Presented by subscribers and unveiled 7th November, 1866.

Lady Martin, see Helen Faucit.

Thomas Mason. Busts. R.A., 1855 and 1856.

Rev. Theobald Mathew. Bronze statue. [Patrick Street, Cork.] Unveiled 10th October, 1864, the anniversary of his birth.

Lord Nelson. Statue. [Norwich.]

General John Nicholson. Monument, showing the Cashmere Bastion, Delhi, 14th September, 1857. [Lisburn Church. Erected in 1862. Engraved by E. Roffe in "Art Journal," 1865.

General John Nicholson. Bust.

Daniel O'Connell. Monument, with bronze statue. [Sackville Street, Dublin.] Commission given in October, 1866. Finished after Foley's death by Brock. Unveiled on August 15th, 1882. A bronze statue 12 feet high, standing on a limestone pedestal and base 28 feet high. At the corners of the base are four seated winged figures 11 feet high, representing Victory by Patriotism, by Fidelity, by Courage and by Eloquence, each with appropriate symbols. On the drum of the pedestal are figures in high relief; Erin, 8 feet high, trampling under foot her discarded fetters, her left hand grasping the Act of Emancipation, and her right pointing to the statue of the Liberator; and groups of figures representing the Church and various professions and trades.

Lt.-General Sir James Outram, G.C.B. Equestrian statue in bronze. [Calcutta.]

Lt.-General Sir James Outram, G.C.B. Bust.

Mrs. Prendergast. Posthumous bust. R.A., 1845.

Bryan Proctor—"Barry Cornwall." Monument.

Sir Walter Raleigh. Statue.

William Rathbone. Statue. [Sefton Park, Liverpool.] Completed after Foley's death from his full-sized model. Unveiled in January, 1877.

Rev. Andrew Reed, D.D. Bust. R.A., 1852.

Charles, 5th Duke of Richmond. Bust. [Council Chamber, Chichester.]

Leith Ritchie. Statue.

William, 3rd Earl of Rosse. Statue. [St. John's Place, Birr.] Unveiled on 21st March, 1876.

John Selden. Marble Statue. [St. Stephen's Hall, Westminster Palace.] Erected in 1853.

John Sheepshanks. Bust. [Victoria and Albert Museum.]

Rev. Richard Sheepshanks. Posthumous bust. R.A., 1857.

William Stokes, M.D. Statue. [Royal College of Physicians, Dublin.]

Hon. James Stuart. Monument. [Ceylon.] Model in R.A., 1854.

R. S. B. J. Vaughan, son of James Vaughan. Bust. R.A., 1860.

James Ward, R.A. Monumental tablet in alto-relievo, "the Muse of Painting." [Kensal Green Cemetery.] Done in 1865. Engraved by R. A. Artlett in "Art Journal," 1866.

Mrs. Warner, actress. Bust. Model taken in 1843. R.A., 1854.

Arthur, Duke of Wellington. Design for a memorial. R.A., 1854.

Whitby.—See under Cornwallis.

Hon. Mrs. James Stuart Wortley. Statuette. Model in R.A., 1855.

The Death of Abel, R.A., 1839.

Innocence, R.A., 1839; R.H.A., 1847.

Innocence. R.A., 1848; B.I., 1852.

Innocence. Statuette. R.A., 1849.

Ino and the Infant Bacchus. [Earl of Ellesmere, Bridgwater House.] R.A., 1840; R.H.A., 1846; B.I., 1849.

The Mother. R.A., 1851.

Lear and Cordelia. R.A., 1841.

The Death of Lear. R.A., 1841. A sketch model in B.I., 1840.

Venus rescuing Æneas from Diomed. R.A., 1842.

Prospero relating his adventures to Miranda. R.A., 1843; B.I., 1843; B.I., 1844; R.H.A., 1846.

Contemplation. R.A., 1845.

Egeria. Marble statue. [Egyptian Hall, Mansion House, London.] R.A., 1856.

Egeria. R.A., 1859. Bought from the sculptor by J. Boustead of Wimbledon. Sold at his sale at Christie's, 29th May, 1880, for 170 guineas.

The Elder Brother in "Comus." [Royal Academy, Diploma Gallery.] R.A., 1860. The Artists' Diploma Work.

The Dead Warrior. B.I., 1840.

The Houseless Wanderer. B.I., 1843; R.H.A., 1844.

A Study from Nature. B.I., 1845; R.H.A., 1846.

A Youth's Head, in marble. B.I., 1854.

A Young Girl. Marble bust. R.H.A., 1863.

Asia. One of the four groups at the base of the Albert Memorial. Engraved by R. A. Artlett in "Art Journal," 1871.

Youth at the Stream. [Conservatory, South Kensington.] R.H.A., 1845. Done in marble in 1864 for the Royal Horticultural Society.

Contemplation. R.H.A., 1845.

Pandarus overthrown by Diomed. R.H.A., 1846.

Summer/Winter. Both executed for Jonathan Neild, Dunster House, Rochdale. Sold at his sale at Christie's, 3rd May, 1879.

Caractacus. [Mansion House, London.]




Design for the Seal of the Confederate States of America, executed in silver. It bears a representation of Crawford's statue of Washington, erected at Richmond, and the inscription "The Confederate States of America, 22nd February, 1862. Deo Vindice."

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