Francis Leggatt Chantrey

Francis Leggatt Chantrey
Self portrait of Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey, c. 1810.

Sir Francis Leg(g)att Chantrey (7 April 1781 – 25 November 1841) was an English sculptor of the Georgian era. He left the Chantrey Bequest or Chantrey Fund for the purchase of works of art for the nation, which was available from 1878 after the death of his widow.



Francis Leggatt Chantrey was born at Norton near Sheffield (when it was part of Derbyshire), where his father, a carpenter, had a small farm. His father died when he was twelve;[1] and his mother remarried, leaving him without clear career to follow. At fifteen, he was working for a grocer in Sheffield, when, having seen some wood-carving in a shop-window, he requested to be apprenticed as a carver instead, and was placed with a Mr Ramsay, woodcarver and gilder, in Sheffield. His artistic merit was spotted by John Raphael Smith, a distinguished draughtsman and engraver, who gave him lessons in painting.[2] In 1802 Chantrey paid £50 to buy himself out of his apprenticeship with Ramsay (despite only having 6 more months to serve). He immediately set up a studio as a portrait artist in Sheffield, which allowed him a reasonable income. He collected sufficient funds to move to London.

Chantry obtained work as an assistant wood-carver, but at the same time devoted himself to portrait-painting, bust-sculpture, and modelling in clay. Asked later in life, as a witness in a court case, whether he had ever worked for any other sculptors, he replied: "No, and what is more, I never had an hour's instruction from any sculptor in my life".[3] He travelled to Dublin, where he fell very ill, and lost all his hair.[1] He then returned to London and exhibited pictures at the Royal Academy for some years from 1804, but from 1807 onwards devoted himself mainly to sculpture. The sculptor Joseph Nollekens showed recognition of his merits. In 1807 he married his cousin, Miss Ann Wale,[2] who had some property of her own. His first imaginative work in sculpture was the model of the head of Satan, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1808. He afterwards executed for Greenwich Hospital four colossal busts of the admirals Duncan, Howe, Vincent and Nelson; and so rapidly did his reputation spread that the next bust which he executed, that of John Horne Tooke, procured him commissions to the value of £2,000.

From this period he was almost uninterruptedly engaged in paid work. In 1819 he visited Italy, and became acquainted with the most distinguished sculptors of Florence and Rome. He was chosen an associate (1815) and afterwards a member (1818) of the Royal Academy, received the degree of M.A. from Cambridge, and that of D.C.L. from Oxford, and in 1835 was knighted. He died after an illness of only two hours' duration, having for some years suffered from heart disease, and was buried in a tomb constructed by himself in the church of his native village in Derbyshire (now Sheffield).


The Sleeping Children (1817) in Lichfield Cathedral, portrays two young sisters, Ellen-Jane and Marianne, who died in tragic circumstances in 1812
Chantrey's memorial for Isaac Hawkins Browne, Tory politician, coalowner and essayist, in the parish church of Badger, Shropshire, where he was lord of the manor.

Chantrey's works are extremely numerous. The principal are the statues of George Washington in the State-house at Boston, Massachusetts; of George III in The Guildhall, London; of George IV at Brighton; of William Pitt the Younger in Hanover Square, London; of James Watt in Westminster Abbey and in Glasgow (also a bust, plus one of William Murdoch, at St. Mary's Church, Handsworth); of William Roscoe and George Canning in Liverpool; of John Dalton in Manchester Town Hall; of Lord President Blair and Lord Melville in Edinburgh, etc. Of his equestrian statues the most famous are those of Sir Thomas Munro in Calcutta, the Duke of Wellington in front of the London Exchange and one of King George IV in Trafalgar Square. The last of these was originally commissioned, on the express instructions of the king himself, to stand on top of the Marble Arch, in front of Buckingham Palace.[4]

He executed several monuments for St Pauls Cathedral: General Hoghton; General Bowes; General Gore; General Skerrett; Colonel Henry Cadogan. He is also responsible for the memorial to Sir James Brisbane in St James' Church, Sydney.

But the finest of Chantrey's works are his busts, and his delineations of children. The Sleeping Children which depicts two children asleep in each other's arms, forms a monumental design in Lichfield Cathedral, has always been lauded for beauty, simplicity and grace. So is also the statue of the girlish Lady Louisa Russell, represented as standing on tiptoe and cradling a dove in her bosom. Both these works appear, in design, to have owed something to Thomas Stothard; Chantrey knew his own scantiness of ideal invention or composition, and always sought aid from others for such attempts. In busts, he had a ready unconstrained air of life, a prompt vivacity of ordinary expression. He also executed church memorials, of which the Earl of Farnham (1826) in Cavan is a fine example.[5] In Derby Museum there is an unusual bust of William Strutt and in Snaith church there is a notable monument to Viscount Downe by Chantrey.[6] Allan Cunningham and Henry Weekes[7] were his chief assistants, and were indeed the active executants of many works that pass under Chantrey's name. He was a man of warm and genial temperament, and is said to have borne a noticeable though commonplace resemblance to the usual portraits of William Shakespeare.

Chantrey Bequest

By the will dated 31 December 1840, Chantrey (who had no children) left his whole residuary personal estate after the decease or on the second marriage of his widow (less certain specified annuities and bequests) in trust for the president and trustees of the Royal Academy (or in the event of the dissolution of the Royal Academy, to such society as might take its place), the income to be devoted to the encouragement of British fine art in painting and sculpture only, by "the purchase of works of fine art of the highest merit ... that can be obtained." The funds might be allowed to accumulate for not more than five years; works by British or foreign artists, dead or living, might be acquired, so long as such works were entirely executed within the shores of Great Britain, the artists having been in residence there during such execution and completion. The prices to be paid were to be "liberal," and no sympathy for an artist or his family was to influence the selection. or the purchase of works, which were to be acquired solely on the ground of intrinsic merit. No commission or orders might be given: the works must be finished before purchase. Conditions were made as to the exhibition of the works, in the confident expectation that as the intention of the testator was to form and establish a public collection of British Fine Art in Painting and Sculpture, the government or the country would provide a suitable gallery for their display; and an annual sum of £300 and £50 was to be paid to the president of the Royal Academy and the secretary respectively, for the discharge of their duties in carrying out the provisions of the will.

Lady Chantrey died in 1875, and two years later the fund became available for the purchase of paintings and sculptures. The capital sum available amounted to £105,000 in 3% Consols, which (since reduced to 2½% in 1903) produces an available annual income varying from £2500 to £2100. Galleries in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington were at first adopted as the depository of the works acquired, until in 1898 the Royal Academy arranged with the treasury, on behalf of the government, for the transference of the collection to the National Gallery of British Art, which had been erected by Sir Henry Tate at Millbank. It was agreed that the "Tate Gallery" should be its future home, and that no power of selection or elimination is claimed on behalf of the trustees and director of the National Gallery (Treasury Letter, 18054-98, 7 December 1898) in respect of the pictures and sculptures which were then to be handed over and which should, from time to time, be sent to augment the collection. Inasmuch as it was felt that the provision that all works must be complete to be eligible for purchase militated against the most advantageous disposition of the fund in respect of sculpture, in the case of wax models or plaster casts before being converted into marble or bronze, it was sought in the action of Sir F Leighton v. Hughes (tried by Mr Justice North, judgment 7 May 1888, and in the court of appeal, before the master of the rolls, Lord Justice Cotton, and Lord Justice Fry, judgment 4 June 1889—the master of the rolls dissenting) to allow of sculptors being commissioned to complete in bronze or marble a work executed in wax or plaster, such completion being more or less a mechanical process. The attempt, however, was abortive.

A growing discontent with the interpretation put by the Royal Academy upon the terms of the will as shown in the works acquired began to find expression more than usually forcible and lively in the press during the year 1903, and a book in 1904, Administration of the Chantrey Bequest by Dugald Sutherland MacColl, a government committee initiated reforms.and a debate raised in the House of Lords by the earl of Lytton led to the appointment of a select committee of the House of Lords, which sat from June to August 1904. The committee consisted of the earls of Carlisle, Lytton, and Crewe, and Lords Windsor, Ribblesdale, Newton, and Killanin, and the witnesses represented the Royal Academy and representative art institutions and art critics. The report (ordered to be printed on 8 August 1904) made certain recommendations with a view to the prevention of certain former errors of administration held to have been sustained, but dismissed other charges against the Academy. In reply thereto a memorandum was issued by the Royal Academy (February 1905, ordered to be printed on 7 August 1905—Paper 166) disagreeing with certain recommendations, but allowing others, either intact or in a modified form.

Up to 1905 inclusive 203 works had been bought—all except two from living painters—at a cost of nearly £68,000. Of these, 175 were in oil-colours, 12 in water-colours, and 16 sculptures (10 in bronze and 6 marble).

Until the 1920s the Bequest was the main source of funding for expanding the collection of what is now Tate Britain, and it remains active today.[8]


  • D. S. MacColl, The Administration of the Chantrey Bequest, by (London, 1904), a controversial publication by the leading assailant of the Royal Academy;
  • Arthur Fish, Chantrey and His Bequest (London, 1904), a complete illustrated record of the purchases, etc.;
  • H. J. Laidlay, The Royal Academy, its Uses and Abuses (London, 1898), controversial;
  • Report from the Select Cornmittee of the House of Lords on the Chantrey Trust, together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence and Appendix (Wyman & Sons, 1904), and Index (separate publication, 1904).
  1. ^ a b Dictionary of British sculptors,1660-151,Robert Gunnis
  2. ^ a b Burke, Edmund. Annual Register volume 83. p. 232. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Report of the trial of the cause Carew against Burrell, Bt and another, executors of the late Earl of Egremont. London: William Nicol. 1841. p. 64. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Chantrey's Statue of George IV in Trafalgar Square". Illustrated London News 4: 128. 1844. doi:February 24. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  5. ^ Potterton, H. (1975) Irish Church Monuments, 1570-1880
  6. ^ Betjeman, John, ed. (1968) Collins Pocket Guide to English Parish Churches: the North. London: Collins; p. 349
  7. ^ "Stevens T. 'Weekes, Henry (1807–1877)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  8. ^ Macdonald, Sharon; Fyfe, Gordon. Theorizing museums: representing identity and diversity in a changing world. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 214. ISBN 0631201513. 

External links


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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