Henry Weekes 1807-1877 Detailed Biography

Henry Weekes RA was not only an English sculptor but also best known for his portraiture. During the mid-Victorian period, he was among the most successful British sculptors.

Henry Weekes

He spent most of his time on his career in London. In 1841, before taking over the latter’s studio in his death, he worked for William Behnes and Sir Francis Chantrey.

Henry Weekes Biography

His works are the first bust of Queen Victoria after her accession, a monument to Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, statues for the Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford, and the Manufactures group of the Albert Memorial in London.

Manufactures group of the Albert Memorial in London
Manufacturers group of the Albert Memorial in London

Not only this, between 1868 and 1876 he was also the professor of a sculpture of the Royal Academy. During his Era, the lectures that he published posthumously, were described as “the most consistent and intelligent exposition of sculptural thinking” by art historian Benedict Read.

Personal life of Henry Weekes

He was born on 14 January 1807 Canterbury, Kent. He was born to Capon Weekes who was a clerk in a bank and his wife, Mary Pearson.

He went to The King’s School, Canterbury which was present in his hometown. William Weekes who was his younger brother was also an artist during the period 1856–1909.

Henry Weekes
Henry Weekes

Of his own five children, Henry Weekes (1850–1884) and Herbert William Weekes (1864–1904) were both genre painters who very well-known for their animal studies. Frederick Weekes was an artist as well as an expert on medieval costume and design during the period of 1833 to 1920. John Ernest Weekes was his further son.

He got retired in May 1877 and soon afterward he suffered and died of heart disease. His date and place of death are variously given as 28 May 1877 in Pimlico, London and the other one is 28 June 1877 in Ramsgate, Kent.

Glorious Career of Henry Weekes

In London, between 1822-1827, Weekes was apprenticed to William Behnes and then in 1823, he entered the Royal Academy Schools. In 1826 in Royal Academy Schools, he won a silver medal for sculpture.

Not only this but in 1827, he became an assistant to the Sir Francis Chantrey who was a well-known portrait sculptor. Weekes remained with him till 1841 when Chantrey died.

Henry Weekes Early Life

The early commissions of Henry Weekes were from his hometown, that is, Canterbury. This commissions included busts of Stephen Lushington, MP for Canterbury and governor of Madras, and his father-in-law George Harris, Baron Harris of Seringapatam and Mysore for the Canterbury Philosophical Society.

Henry Weekes

This led to a series of Indian commissions which also included works for St George’s Cathedral, Madras which is now called as Chennai.

He was the first sculptor to execute a bust of Queen Victoria in 1838 which was being commissioned by the queen as a gift for her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. This sensitive depiction of the young queen recognized as a reputation for portraiture.

Henry Weekes’s Works and Achievements

After the death of Chantrey, Weekes took over his studio. Chantrey requested to complete his unfinished works and thus Weekes did it for him after his death.

This work included most notably an equestrian bronze of the Duke of Wellington for the Royal Exchange. His subsequent career flourished during the mid-Victorian period with one of the most successful British sculptors, he left nearly £30,000 at his death.

The Shelly Monument by Henry Weekes
The Shelly Monument by Henry Weekes

The reputation he built during his time was not long lasting and soon after his death New Sculpture rise which led to the negligence of his works.

He was an associate of the Royal Academy from 1851 and then in 1863, he was elected as a Royal Academician in 1863.  He won a gold medal from the Royal Society of Arts for an essay on the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Henry Weekes Facts

From 1868 to 1876, he was the academy’s professor of sculpture. In 1852, his essay got published which was a gold-medal-winning essay. As it is described in a contemporary review as “thoroughly practical”,

It includes an exposition of the technical aspects of casting in bronze and carving in marble. Between 1828 and his death, Henry Weekes exhibited 124 works at Royal Academy.

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