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  Henry Hugh Armstead (1828–1905), by John Evan Hodgson, 1884 Henry Hugh Armstead (1828–1905), by John Evan Hodgson, 1884
Armstead, Henry Hugh (1828–1905), sculptor and illustrator, was born in Bloomsbury, London, on 18 June 1828, the fourth and youngest son of John Armstead, and his wife, Ann, daughter of Hugh Dyer of Belfast. John Armstead was a heraldic chaser and Henry Hugh Armstead began his education in his father's workshop. At the age of thirteen he was sent to the Government School of Design at Somerset House. A contemporary reported that while sketching at the British Museum he began a lifelong friendship with a fellow student, William Holman-Hunt. He subsequently studied at two well-known private art schools in London, run by Francis Stephen Cary (1808–1880) and James Matthews Leigh (1808–1860). Armstead married Sarah, daughter of Henry Tanworth Wells, a harness maker, and sister of , at St Pancras Church, Marylebone, on 9 September 1857. They had three daughters and one son.

Later Armstead was employed at the factory of silversmiths Hunt and Roskell. There he worked with and became a close friend of J. R. Clayton, an important designer of stained glass. At this time he also studied in the studio of the sculptor Edward Hodges Baily (1788–1867) and at the Royal Academy Schools. Until about 1863 Armstead concentrated mainly upon metalwork, designing, modelling, and chasing sculptural trophy and exhibition pieces for Hunt and Roskell and C. F. Hancock & Co. His style was influenced by that of Antoine Vechte (1798–1868), the great French silver-chaser, who was in England at that time, also working for Hunt and Roskell. Among Armstead's works in metal the most important are the Tennyson Vase, the Packington Shield, and the Outram Shield (exh. RA, 1862; V&A). However, Armstead increasingly turned to sculpture because, Gosse suggests, he was disappointed when his work in silver did not bring him the recognition it deserved (Gosse, 172). The Art Union awarded prizes to Armstead in 1849 and 1851 for a relief of The Death of Boadicea and a statuette entitled Satan Dismayed and published them as an edition of reduced scale bronzes. About 1860 Armstead provided sculptural decoration for the architectural partnership of John Pritchard and John Pollard Seddon at Llandaff Cathedral and Ettington Park, Warwickshire. For Ettington, Armstead designed a series of twenty reliefs illustrating the history of the Shirley family, who lived there. It is said that it was this series of reliefs, together with the Outram Shield, which initially brought Armstead to the attention of George Gilbert Scott. During the second half of the 1860s Armstead was at work on a series of wooden relief panels of Arthurian subjects for the royal robing room at the Palace of Westminster. For Scott, Armstead executed the sculptural parts of the model for the Albert Memorial, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Of this Scott wrote in his memoirs, ‘I doubt whether either the central figure or a single group, as executed, is superior to the miniature models furnished by Mr Armstead’ (Scott, 266). For the actual memorial, in Kensington Gardens, Armstead worked on the podium frieze, with John Birnie Philip, and provided four bronze statues of Rhetoric, Astronomy, Chemistry, and Medicine. Another major work for Armstead was the exterior sculptural decoration of the Colonial Office, Whitehall. The range of Armstead's work encompassed funerary monuments, including the effigies of Bishop Wilberforce in Winchester Cathedral and of Bishop Ollivant in Llandaff Cathedral, public statues, such as Lieutenant Waghorn at Chatham, busts, and a few imaginative works such as My Dainty Ariel (ex Christies, South Kensington, 21 January 1998), Hero and Leander, The Ever-Reigning Queen, and Remorse (exh. RA, 1903; Tate collection). Armstead also illustrated a number of books: Eliza Cook's Poems (1856), Good Works (1861), and Sacred Poetry (1862); The Churchman's Family Magazine (1863); Touches of Nature by Eminent Artists and Authors (1867); Dalziel's Bible Gallery (1880); and Art Pictures from the Old Testament (1894). Simon Houfe noted that ‘his illustrations, especially his religious subjects, were rather hard … his modern genre subjects could be delightful with a good sense of composition’ (Houfe, 222).

Armstead has been recognized as a forerunner to the New Sculpture movement due to the naturalism evident in many of his works. Susan Beattie has argued that his early training as a craftsman also distinguishes him from his contemporaries and links him to a younger generation of sculptors (Beattie, 33). Armstead was familiar with Pre-Raphaelite circles although he was never really part of that movement.

Armstead was elected an associate of the Royal Academy on 16 January 1875, and Royal Academician on 18 December 1879. He was said to be an active member of the academy and extremely popular as a man. He taught in the Academy Schools from 1875 until near his death. He had a reputation for fine taste as an arranger of works of art when it was his turn to place the sculpture in the annual exhibitions. He died at his house, 52 Circus Road, St John's Wood, on 4 December 1905, and was buried in Highgate cemetery.

Walter Armstrong, rev. Emma Hardy

Sources  

E. W. Gosse, ‘Living English sculptors’, Century Magazine, 26 (1883), 163–85 · M. H. Spielmann, British sculpture and sculptors of to-day (1901) · B. Read, Victorian sculpture (1982) · S. Beattie, The New Sculpture (1983) · The Times (6 Dec 1905) · The Times (9 Dec 1905) · The Times (11 Dec 1905) · ‘The new associate of the Royal Academy of Arts’, The Graphic (20 Feb 1875), 171 · G. G. Scott, Personal and professional recollections (1879); repr. with introduction by G. Stamp (1995) · P. Ward-Jackson, ‘Armstead, Henry Hugh’, The dictionary of art, ed. J. Turner (1996) · S. Houfe, The dictionary of British book illustrators and caricaturists, 1800–1914 (1978) · T. Schroder, English domestic silver, 1500–1900 (1988) · F. Haskell, ‘Un monument et ses mystères’, Revue de l'Art, 30 (1975), 61–79, 104–10 · C. Avery and M. Marsh, ‘The bronze statuettes of the Art Union of London: the rise and decline of Victorian taste in sculpture’, Apollo, 121 (1985), 328–37 · Courtauld Inst. · m. cert. · d. cert. · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1905)

Archives  

Courtauld Inst., Conway Library · Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, Armstead Archive · RA, albums |  BL, corresp. with G. L. Craik, Add. MSS 61895 · U. Leeds, Brotherton L., corresp. with Edmund Gosse


Likenesses  

J. E. Hodgson, oils, 1884, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Macdonald collection [see illus.] · Lock & Whitfield, woodburytype, NPG; repro. in T. Cooper, Men of mark: a gallery of contemporary portraits (1883), 7 · J. E. Mayall, photograph, NPG; repro. in T. Cooper, Men of mark: a gallery of contemporary portraits (1883), 7 · A. J. Melhuish, photograph, V&A · engraving (after photograph by Messrs Fradelle and Marshall), repro. in The Graphic (Feb 1875), 172 · wood-engravings (after photographs), NPG; repro. in ILN (1875)

Wealth at death  

£14,602 17s. 10d.: probate, 27 Dec 1905, CGPLA Eng. & Wales