WOOLNER, THOMAS (1825-1892), British sculptor and poet, was born at Hadleigh, Suffolk, on the 17th of December 1825. When a boy he showed talent for modelling, and when barely thirteen years old was taken as an assistant into the studio of William Behnes, and trained during four years. In December 1842 Woolner was admitted a student in the Royal Academy, and in 1843 exhibited his " Eleanor sucking Poison from the Wound of Prince Edward." In 1844, among the competitive works for decorating the Houses of Parliament was his life-size group of " The Death of Boadicea." In 1846 he had at the Royal Academy a graceful bas-relief of Shelley's " Alastor." Then came (1847) " Feeding the Hungry," a bas-relief, at the Academy; and at the British Institution a brilliant statuette of " Puck " perched upon a toadstool and with his toe rousing a frog. " Eros and Euphrosyne " and " The Rainbow " were seen at the Academy in 1848.
Woolner became, in the autumn of 1848, one of the seven Pre-Raphaelite Brethren, and took a leading part in The Germ (1850), the opening poem in which, called " My Beautiful Lady," was written by him. He had already modelled and exhibited portraits of Carlyle, Browning and Tennyson. Unable to make his way in art as he wished, Woolner in 1852 tried his luck as a gold-digger in Australia. Failing in this, he returned to England in 1857, where during his absence his reputation had been increased by means of a statue of " Love " as a damsel lost in a daydream. Then came his second portraits of Carlyle, Tennyson and Browning, the figures of Moses, David, St John the Baptist and St Paul for the pulpit of Llandaff cathedral, the medallion portrait of Wordsworth in Grasmere church, the likenesses of Sir Thomas Fairbairn, Rajah Brooke of Sarawak, Mrs Tennyson, Sir W. Hooker and Sir F. Palgrave. The fine statue of Bacon in the New Museum at Oxford was succeeded by full-size statues of Prince Albert for Oxford, Macaulay for Cambridge, William III. for the Houses of Parliament, London, and Sir Bartle Frere for Bombay; busts of Tennyson, for Trinity College, Cambridge, Dr Whewell, and Archdeacon Hare; statues of Lord Lawrence for Calcutta, Queen Victoria for Birmingham, Field for the Law Courts, London, Palmerston for Palace Yard, the noble colossal standing figure of Captain Cook that overlooks the harbour of Sydney, New South Wales, which is Woolner's masterpiece in that class; the recumbent effigy of Lord F. Cavendish (murdered in Dublin) in Cartmel church, the seated Lord Chief Justice Whiteside for the Four Courts, Dublin, and John Stuart Mill for the Thames Embankment, London; Landseer, and 'Bishop Jackson for St Paul's, Bishop Fraser for Manchester, and Sir Stamford Raffles for Singapore. Among Woolner's busts are those of Newman, Darwin, Sedgwick, Huxley, Cobden, Professor Lushington, Dickens, Kingsley, and Sir William Gull, besides the repetition, with variations, of Gladstone for the Bodleian, Oxford, and Mansion House, London, and Tennyson. The last was acquired for Adelaide, South Australia. Woolner's poetic and imaginative sculptures include " Elaine with the Shield of Lancelot," three fine panels for the pedestal of the Gladstone bust at Cambridge, the noble and original " Moses " which was commissioned in 1861 and is on the apex of the gable of the Manchester Assize Courts, and two other works in the same building; "Ophelia," a statue (1869); "In Memoriam "; " Virgilia sees in a vision Coriolanus routing the Volsces "; " Guinevere "; " Mercury teaching a shepherd to sing," for the Royal College of Music; " Ophelia," a bust (1878); " Godiva," and " The Water Lily."
In 1864 he married Alice Gertrude Waugh, by whom he had two sons and four daughters. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1871, and a full member in 1874. Woolner wrote and published two amended versions of " My Beautiful Lady " from The Germ, as well as " Pygmalion " (1881), "Silenus" (1884), " Tiresias " (1886), and "Poems" (1887) comprising " Nelly Dale " (1886) and " Children." Having been elected professor of sculpture in the Royal Academy, Woolner began to prepare lectures, but they were never delivered, for he resigned the office in 1879. He died suddenly on the 7th of October 1892, and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary's, Hendon.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)