Sir William Goscombe John

Sir William Goscombe John was one of the leaders of the British New Sculpture movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Last updated: 10 January 2011

Goscombe John was born in 1860 in Canton, Cardiff. The son of a wood carver, he assisted his father in his work in the restoration of Cardiff Castle, under William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute.

Joyance statue by Goscombe John. Photo: Cardiff Council

Joyance statue by Goscombe John. Photo: Cardiff Council.

He studied at Cardiff School of Art, Lambeth City and Guilds School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools.

In 1889 he won the Royal Academy Gold Medal Travel Scholarship and spent 1890-1891 in Paris where he modelled Morpheus. The sculpture shows the influence of Rodin, whom Goscombe John had the opportunity to watch at work while in Paris.

Goscombe John crafted a number of public statues and memorials throughout Britain.

Many examples of his work adorn the Welsh capital city, including a statue of Judge Gwilym Williams outside City Hall, Joyance in Thompson's Park, The Elf in the gardens of St Fagan's Natural History Museum, James Rice Buckley and the Llandaff war memorial on Llandaff's Cathedral Green, plus statues of John Cory, Godfrey Charles Morgan (First Viscount of Tredegar) and Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart all in Gorsedd Gardens.

His statue Patron Saint of Wales, Dewi Sant (St David) stands alone in the centre of the Marble Hall among the impressive Heroes of Wales statue collection at Cardiff's City Hall.

Other famous examples of his work include The Response at Barras Bridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, commemorating the Northumberland Fusiliers; the Memorial to the Engine Room Heroes of the Titanic in Liverpool and the War Memorial at Port Sunlight in Cheshire.

Goscombe John was made a Royal Academician in 1909 and was knighted in 1911. He was awarded the RBS Gold Medal in 1924 and became an honorary freeman of Cardiff in 1936.

He died in 1952 at the grand old age of 92.

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