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Baily, Edward Hodges (1788–1867), sculptor and designer and modeller of silver, was born on 10 March 1788 at Bristol, the son of William Baily, a ship's carver, and his wife, Martha. After leaving school at the age of fourteen Baily was placed in a merchant's counting house where he remained for two years. He formed an acquaintance with a local artist called Weekes, a modeller of portraits in wax, and began himself to model likenesses in this medium. After seeing John Bacon's monument to Mrs Draper (Sterne's Eliza), Baily began to model in clay. He was recommended to John Flaxman by Dr Leigh of Bristol, for whom he had copied Flaxman's illustrations to The Iliad, and spent seven years in the sculptor's studio, where he was acknowledged as his favourite and most devoted pupil. Before leaving Bristol, Baily had married, on 21 April 1806, at the age of eighteen, Elizabeth Wadley, who later joined him in London. Their first son, Edward Hodges Baily, was baptized on 7 February 1824 at St Anne's, Soho, and a second son, Alfred, was baptized on 3 November 1825 in the Old Church, St Pancras. A daughter, Caroline, was baptized on 12 January 1812 in St Marylebone Church, Middlesex. They had another daughter, Aurelia.

Baily was admitted a student of the Royal Academy Schools on 8 March 1809, aged almost twenty-one, in which year he won the silver medal for models. Two years later he won the gold medal for sculpture. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy on 3 November 1817, beating the painter John Constable after three ballots, and being the only sculptor elected that year. Election as Royal Academician came on the death of Sir Benjamin West when on 10 February 1821 he beat the engraver William Daniell in two ballots. While still a student at the Academy Schools, Baily had begun to work for the firm of Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell, goldsmiths to the royal family. He rose to become the firm's chief modeller and designer on Flaxman's death in 1826. He was also chief designer for the silversmith Paul Storr, and continued to work with him for the company which became Hunt and Roskell. The role of interpreter of artists' designs for ‘art manufacture’ continued throughout his career, often with the approbation of the queen and Prince Albert. Year after year the Illustrated London News and the Art Journal illustrated the silver and silver-gilt racing cups for Ascot, Doncaster, and Goodwood, and testimonials and presentation plate designed by Baily. In 1857, the year of his retirement, he designed the Turner gold medal for landscape painting for the Royal Academy.

While still working for Flaxman, Baily provided the models of the stone figures for the pediments of Nash's enlargement of Buckingham House in 1826. He also executed the statues, trophies, spandrels, and keystones for the archway (removed to Marble Arch, 1851) and the throne room frieze Britannia Rewarding Arts and Science. The statues Britannia and Victory now adorn facades of the National Gallery, London. In 1833 the Literary Gazette reported questions in the house as to the delays in payment of ‘this eminent sculptor, whose productions do immortal honour to himself and country’ (27 July 1833, no. 862, 477).

Major works by Baily include the seated figure of George O'Brien Wyndham, third earl of Egremont (1840; St Mary's, Petworth, Sussex), and numerous subject groups including Maternal Affection (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) and Maternal Love (Petworth House, Sussex). His Eve at the Fountain (1822; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery) was one of the most famous pieces of British sculpture in the nineteenth century. It was editioned in bronze by the French foundry Bardedienne as late as 1886. Baily executed numerous classicizing portrait busts of the leading scientists, politicians, poets, and painters of the day, creating excellent likenesses. Among them were Thomas Bewick, for the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne (1825), a posthumous bust of the poet Lord Byron (1826; marble versions at Harrow School and Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire), Michael Faraday (1830; University Museum, Oxford), Sir John Herschel (1850; St John's College, Cambridge), and Richard Owen (1846; Royal College of Surgeons). In an age of public statuary, his output was prodigious: his Charles, Second Earl Grey (1838; Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne), Sir Robert Peel (1852; Market Place, Bury), and the colossal granite Horatio, Viscount Nelson (1843; Trafalgar Square, London), have become icons for their age. At the time, however, they elicited inevitable controversy. Following his award of second prize in the Nelson memorial competition in 1839 Baily was allocated the figure of Nelson which formed part of William Railton's design that won first prize. Baily had gained permission for the public ‘to view this stupendous work’ as announced in the Standard (25 Oct 1843), before Nelson was raised in two pieces to the top of William Railton's 170 foot column, on 6 November 1843. Among his private patrons were George O'Brien Wyndham, third earl of Egremont, the collector Elhanan Bicknell, whose gallery at Herne Hill, Surrey, included four subject groups, and Joseph Neeld MP of Grittleton House, Wiltshire, great-nephew of the jeweller Philip Rundell.

Baily, described by Lady Eastlake as ‘a shrewd looking man of humour and sagacity’ (E. Eastlake, Journals and Correspondence, 1895, 1.265), was held in high critical esteem by contemporaries for his powers of composition and for the exquisite finish of his work. His statue of Turner, exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, was described as being ‘from the chisel of the greatest of modern sculptors’ (Evening Star, 13 May 1858). His influence on his numerous pupils, such as William Calder Marshall and John Henry Foley, was considerable. He was the acknowledged exponent of ideal or poetical sculpture, and his retirement coincided with a reaction against ideal and literary-inspired subjects, from which his reputation has never recovered. The obituarist of the Art Journal described Baily as ‘one of the most successful and accomplished British sculptors of the nineteenth century’ (Art Journal, 1 July 1867), a view which has remained unrefuted. Baily was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 13 January 1842, and in 1858 he was elected to the Belgian Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, both marks of the esteem in which he was held by contemporaries. Financial insecurity was a recurring theme throughout his life. His first declared bankruptcy in 1831 (The Times, 11 Nov 1831) coincided with his attempts to gain payment for the work commissioned for Buckingham House, and he was bankrupted again in 1838 (The Times, 3 March 1838). On both occasions he appealed to the Royal Academy for assistance, something he was to do again in 1858 and 1862. In 1857 Baily ceased to work for Hunt and Roskell and resigned as an active member of the Royal Academy in 1862. He spent his last years ‘being in circumstances of much difficulty’ on a pension of £200 p.a., as an honorary retired academician from 1863 (RA council minutes). He died at his home, 99 Devonshire Road, Holloway, London, on 22 May 1867 and was buried in Highgate cemetery. His wife predeceased him. His daughter Caroline married into the Papworth dynasty of architects and his grandson was the sculptor E. G. Papworth. A volume of Baily's designs for silversmiths is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; examples of his sculpture in marble and plaster are in Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Manchester City Galleries; Petworth House, Sussex; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Katharine Eustace

Sources  

council and general assembly minutes, RA · J. Riddel, ‘Collections for the life of E. H. Baily’, catalogue no. 19 (1911–1915), 1886, BL, Add. MS 38678 · S. C. Hutchison, ‘The Royal Academy Schools, 1768–1830’, Walpole Society, 38 (1960–62), 123–91, esp. 165 · Art Journal (1828–67) · Art Journal, 29 (1867), 170 · ILN · Literary Gazette · R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British sculptors, 1660–1851 (1953); new edn (1968) · Graves, RA exhibitors · K. Eustace, ‘Baily, Edward Hodges’, The dictionary of art, ed. J. Turner (1996) · autograph letters, V&A NAL · J. Kenworthy-Browne, ‘Marbles from a Victorian fantasy’, Country Life, 140 (1966), 708–12 · C. Oman, ‘A problem of artistic responsibility: the firm of Rundell, Bridge and Rundell’, Apollo, 83 (1966), 174–83 · A. Radcliffe, ‘Acquisitions of sculpture by the Royal Academy during its first century’, Apollo, 89 (1969), 44–51 · R. Ormond, Early Victorian portraits, 2 vols. (1973) · N. B. Penny, ‘English church monuments to women who died in childbed between 1780 and 1835’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 38 (1975), 314–32 · N. Penny, Church monuments in Romantic England (1977) · B. Read, Victorian sculpture (1982) · D. Irwin, John Flaxman, 1755–1826: sculptor illustrator designer (1979) · D. Bindman, ed., John Flaxman R.A. (1979) [exhibition catalogue, RA] · A. Yarrington, The commemoration of the hero, 1800–1864 (1988) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1867) · d. cert. · IGI · E. Knowles, ‘“The most brilliant genius that ever lived …”? Edward Hodges Baily, 1788–1867, R.A., F.R.S., member of the Royal Academy of the Arts, Antwerp’, BA diss., Leicester University (1994) · Men of the time (1856)

Archives  

BL, collection for a biography, incl. corresp., Add. MS 38678


Likenesses  

watercolour, 1842 (E. H. Baily completing the statue of Nelson in his studio), RIBA · C. H. Lear, pencil and black chalk on paper, c.1846, NPG; repro. in Ormond, Early Victorian portraits · pencil drawing, c.1850 (with three pupils), NPG · J. Smyth, line engraving, BM, NPG; repro. in Art Union (1847) · Miss Turner, lithograph (after W. Beechey), BM, NPG · A. B. Wyon, bronze medallion, NPG · photographs, NPG · wood-engraving, NPG; repro. in ILN (8 June 1867), 569

Wealth at death  

under £50: administration with will, 21 June 1867, CGPLA Eng. & Wales