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Sculpting Royalty: Hew Locke and Mary Thornycroft

Study Gallery, Henry Moore Institute
12 July – 3 November 2024

This summer, the Henry Moore Institute will present Sculpting Royalty, a new collection display presenting works by the acclaimed contemporary artist Hew Locke in dialogue with nineteenth-century sculptor Mary Thornycroft.

The British royal family in all its manifestations, and throughout history, is ever present in the work of Guyanese-British sculptor Hew Locke (b. 1959). For Locke, images of the royal family have functioned as symbols of British power, history and identity. Working during the reign of Queen Victoria, British sculptor Mary Thornycroft (1809–95) became known primarily as a royal sculptor, patronised by the monarch herself and commissioned to produce portrait busts of over four generations of the royal family.

Sculpting Royalty takes as its starting point the recent acquisition of Hew Locke’s Souvenir 10 (Princess Alexandra) 2019 for the Leeds collection, a reworked Parian ware bust of Princess Alexandra of Denmark produced after a marble original by Mary Thornycroft. It asks what happens when the work of a Victorian royal sculptor quite literally clashes with a twenty-first century reframing of monarchy and memorialisation.

The display will bring together artworks by both artists drawn from the Leeds collection, alongside related archival material from the Thornycroft family papers in the Archive of Sculptors’ Papers. Four works from Locke’s Natives and Colonials series of overpainted photographs from 2005 will be shown alongside these sculptures, which similarly provide colourful reinterpretations of London public monuments, including the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.

Hew Locke’s Souvenir 10 (Princess Alexandra) 2019 was acquired for the Leeds Sculpture Collections in 2023 through a funding partnership between the Henry Moore Foundation and art philanthropist Cathy Wills, coordinated by the Contemporary Art Society. The partnership was established in 2019 to enrich public collections in Yorkshire with contemporary sculpture, and has included the acquisition of works by Phyllida Barlow, Emii Alrai, Ro Robertson for Leeds Art Gallery, and Steve Claydon, Michael Dean, Magali Reus and Veronica Ryan for The Hepworth Wakefield.


Main image: Hew Locke, ‘Souvenir 10 (Princess Alexandra)’ 2019, mixed media on antique Parian ware. Image courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery), © Hew Locke. Photo: Anna Arca.

Roger Fenton, photograph of Mary Thornycroft with statue of Princess Helena as Peace, c.1855. Image courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries (Archive of Sculptors’ Papers, Henry Moore Institute).

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Notes to editors


About the artists

Hew Locke

Hew Locke OBE RA was born in Edinburgh, raised in Guyana, and lives in London.

His work often fuses historic sources with political or cultural concerns, merging influences from across the globe. In 2022 Locke unveiled his celebrated work The Procession, as the Duveen Commission at Tate Britain (currently showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston). In the same year he produced Gilt for the Façade Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His floating Armada of forty-five boats was part of the Entangled Pasts exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London earlier this year.

He is currently curating a major exhibition What Have We Here? at The British Museum, opening in October 2024. Public statuary and national symbols have long been of interest. His public artworks include The Jurors, marking 800 years of Magna Carta, situated at Runnymede, Surrey. Next year his series of six bronze boats Cargoes will be unveiled in King Edward Memorial Park, Wapping, London, reflecting the history of trade on the Thames.

Mary Thornycroft

Mary Francis (1809–95) was a successful Victorian sculptor who married into the Thornycroft family dynasty of sculptors. She has regularly been described as the daughter, wife and mother of sculptors. At the recommendation of the sculptor John Gibson, Thornycroft received her first of many commissions from Queen Victoria in 1844, which would last until 1877. During this time she produced portrait busts of over four generations of the royal family and also taught sculpture to Princess Louise, later Duchess of Argyll. Throughout her career, Thornycroft regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, the British Institute and was represented in the Great Exhibition of 1851.

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