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date: 17 February 2020

Park, Patricfree

(1811–1855)
  • J. M. Gray
  • , revised by Dianne King

Park, Patric (1811–1855), sculptor, was born on 12 February 1811 in Glasgow, the third of six children of Matthew Park (1769–1820), mason and builder, and his wife, Catherine (1785–1876), daughter of Robert Lang, a Hamilton wood merchant. After attending school at Duntocher, Old Kilpatrick, and then Glasgow grammar school, Park was apprenticed at fourteen, on the advice of the architect David Hamilton, to John Connell who was building Hamilton Palace. During his three years there he developed considerable skill as an architectural mason. A carving of the Hamilton coat of arms he made from an engraving so impressed the tenth duke of Hamilton that the sixteen-year-old was entrusted with carving the armorial bearings above the palace main entrance. There followed two years' similar work with the architect Graham Gillespie at Murthly Castle.

Park left for Rome in October 1831, supported by patronage and a letter of introduction to the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen by the duke of Hamilton. Park's two years of study under Thorvaldsen imbued him with an admiration for the heroic nude which was later to disconcert a conservative Scottish audience. Returning late in 1833, he settled in Edinburgh. His most important large works are the marble funerary relief to the solicitor-general of Scotland Andrew Skene (d. 1835), with four lifesize figures—Misfortune Soothed by Wisdom flanked by two nude mourning youths (new Calton cemetery, Edinburgh); the statue of the educationist Michael Sadler for Leeds (exh. RA, 1837; formerly Leeds parish church, moved to the university cemetery in 1958); and the over-lifesize statue of the industrialist Charles Tennant (1838) in the Glasgow necropolis.

In 1835 Park moved to London, establishing a studio at 8 George Street, Euston Square. By the time of his marriage to Robina Roberts, daughter of the proprietor of the Inverness Courier, Robert Carruthers, on 15 October 1844, Park had moved to 13 Bruton Street, Berkeley Square.

Park was best known as a portrait sculptor. The Illustrated London News (17 August 1855) considered him the best in Scotland and equal in stature to Sir Francis Chantrey. His sitters included many famous names, among them Macaulay (exh. RA, 1836; marble, 1843; Wallington, Northumberland), the dukes of Hamilton and Newcastle (latter exh. RA, 1836), Lord Jeffrey (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1840; NPG), Charles Dickens (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1842), Sir Charles Napier (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1842), and Lord Dundonald (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1848; Scot. NPG). Generous and impulsive, he sometimes gifted busts—for example, to the poet Thomas Campbell (1839), and one of Robert Burns (1845) to the Burns monument in Ayr. His busts characteristically employ drapery in bold folds surrounding an energetically rendered dignified likeness. Later portraits include Charles Barry for the duke of Sutherland (1849), Sheriff William Fraser-Tytler (1851; Inverness Sheriff Court), Lord Chief-Justice Boyle (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1854; Society of Solicitors, Edinburgh), and the Duke of Cambridge (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1856). Contemporary reviewers particularly praised a colossal head of Oliver Cromwell (exh. Royal Scottish Academy, 1850), derived from a deathmask, and Napoleon III (1854; V&A) for the eleventh duke of Hamilton. Park's busts are represented in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Scotland, and the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Society, and the Geological Museum, London, and in the Glasgow Museums.

Most of Park's mythological and other figurative works are now lost including the Sphaerobolos (exh. RA, 1837); Hector (exh. RA, 1843); The Descent of Mercury with the Cestus of Venus, and the Greek Huntsman group sent to Westminster Hall in 1844 and 1845, respectively; and the statue for Culloden battlefield of a wounded highlander (1867; Exhibition of Art and Industry, Inverness).

Enthusiastic and headstrong, Park frequently flouted convention in his life and his art. Although vigorous and expressive, his style was sometimes criticized as exaggerated or 'eccentric'. Modesty Unveiled was refused for the 1846 Art Union competition as too sensual. He competed unsuccessfully for major memorials including the Edinburgh Scott monument (a fountain design, exh. RA, 1838); five designs for the Nelson monument, London, 1839 (his 1844 offer to complete it at his own expense with four reliefs was declined); and an impressive design for the Wellington testimonial, Manchester, 1854.

A major commission in 1846 to carve twenty lifesize characters from the writings of Sir Walter Scott for the Scott monument, Edinburgh, ended in disaster. Fourteen models were exhibited at the third Edinburgh Waverley ball in March 1846. Although paid for, the twenty models and thirteen lifesize statues, at least seven of them finished, were sold to prevent their being seized for rent arrears and soon decorated a merchant's garden at Clapham Common. Park had considered departing for India but fled to Scotland in the winter of 1848/9 in serious financial difficulties.

From 23 York Place, Edinburgh, Park submitted no fewer than thirteen busts to the 1849 Royal Scottish Academy exhibition. Early in 1850 he was working without commission on a colossal statue of William Wallace with the lion of Scotland, 15 feet high and using up to 10 tons of clay. After exhibition in a specially built pavilion at Bellevue Crescent, Edinburgh, in 1851, the statue was abandoned, despite critical support. A nude hero without even the customary figleaf did not accord with Scottish public taste. This typically ambitious undertaking contributed towards Park's sequestration, with no assets, in August 1851. Following this embarrassment, he moved in 1852 to 104 King Street, Manchester.

Elected associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1849 and full academician in 1851, Park exhibited fifty-four works at the Royal Academy, 1836–55, and eighty-two at the Royal Scottish Academy, 1839–55. He also showed work at the West of Scotland Academy, the British Institution, the Society of British Artists, and the Royal Manchester Institution. He wrote well on art, expounding his views at length in The Scotsman, the Art Union, and in pamphlets. His letter to Sheriff Alison, On the Use of Drapery in Portrait Sculpture, 1846, was circulated privately and his Observations upon D.R. Hay's ‘Theory of Proportion’ were included in Hay's published reply in 1851. In 1850 he gave two well-received lectures in Edinburgh entitled On the Application of High Art to Public Sculpture.

Park's promising career ended abruptly after a professional visit to Speke Hall, Lancashire, when he characteristically helped an old man staggering under a large hamper of ice at Warrington Station and haemorrhaged with the strain, dying four days later on 16 August 1855 in a local hotel. He left a widow and five children. He was buried at Ardwick Green, Manchester. The Gentleman's Magazine later described Park as 'one of the great but unappreciated geniuses of his time; a man of powerful intellect as well as powerful frame, a true artist of heroic mould and thought' but whose 'conceptions [were] too grand to find a market' (GM, 257, 1884, 451–8).

Sources

  • P. Park, letters, 1832–55, NL Scot., Acc. no. 10098 [incl. cuttings (2 vols.)]
  • History of Scott monument, NL Scot., MS 23.3.15 [incl. copies of Park correspondence]
  • GM, 257 (1884), 451–8 [tribute by Charles Mackay]
  • R. L. Woodward, ‘Nineteenth century Scottish sculpture’, PhD diss., U. Edin., 1979
  • Building Chronicle (1855), 236
  • The Builder (1850), 190, 357
  • The Builder (1851), 126, 144
  • The Builder (1855), 408
  • The Builder (1866), 733
  • Scottish Notes and Queries, 3rd ser., 1 (1923), 72–4
  • P. J. M. McEwan, Dictionary of Scottish art and architecture (1994)
  • The Scotsman (18 Jan 1845), 3
  • The Scotsman (13 Sept 1845), 3
  • The Scotsman (11 March 1846), 3
  • The Scotsman (21 Oct 1846), 3
  • The Scotsman (29 April 1848), 3
  • The Scotsman (17 Feb 1849), 2
  • The Scotsman (17 March 1849), 2
  • The Scotsman (24 March 1849), 3
  • The Scotsman (28 July 1849), 3
  • The Scotsman (18 Aug 1849), 3
  • The Scotsman (21 Nov 1849), 3
  • The Scotsman (27 Feb 1850), 3
  • The Scotsman (2 March 1850), 3
  • The Scotsman (30 March 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (17 July 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (20 July 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (31 July 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (3 Aug 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (28 Aug 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (7 Sept 1850), 2
  • The Scotsman (19 Oct 1850), 3
  • The Scotsman (2 Nov 1850), 4
  • The Scotsman (1 Feb 1851), 2
  • The Scotsman (12 Feb 1851), 2
  • The Scotsman (15 Feb 1851), 2
  • The Scotsman (19 Feb 1851), 2
  • The Scotsman (29 March 1851), 2
  • The Scotsman (12 Nov 1851), 2
  • The Scotsman (31 Dec 1851), 3
  • The Scotsman (24 Jan 1852), 4
  • The Scotsman (2 June 1852), 2
  • The Scotsman (16 June 1852), 3
  • The Scotsman (25 Sept 1852), 2
  • The Scotsman (30 Aug 1854), 3
  • The Scotsman (23 June 1855), 3
  • The Scotsman (18 Aug 1855), 2
  • The Scotsman (22 Aug 1855), 3
  • W. Simpson, ‘Inverness artists’, Inverness Courier (2 Jan 1925), 4 [source for ‘Highlander’ information]
  • Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres (1846), 722
  • sequestration document, NA Scot., CS 280/37/54
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1850), 102, 178
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1851), 95, 162
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1852), 80
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1854), 24, 55–6
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1855), 156
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1846), 18, 263
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1845), 258
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1844), 171, 214
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1842), 128
  • Art Union [Art Journal] (1841), 103
  • D. R. Hay, A letter to Patric Park (1851)

Archives

  • NA Scot., sequestration, CS 280/37/54
  • NL Scot., incl. copies of corresp. relating to Scott figures, MS 23.3.15
  • NL Scot., letters and cuttings, 1832–55, 2 vols., acc. no. 10098
  • NL Scot., MSS 590 (nos. 1545 and 1546), 3217, fols. 29, 3447, fols. 88, 3449, fols. 191, 4080, 4085, 4090, 6294, fols. 77, 9716, fol. 163
  • NRA, priv. coll., corresp. with Robert Brown
  • Royal Scot. Acad., letters mainly to D. O. Hill

Likenesses

  • K. MacLeay, watercolour drawing, 1859 (after photograph), Scot. NPG
  • P. Park, self-portrait, chalk drawing, NL Scot., acc. no. 10098, following fol. 4
  • marble bust, Wallington, Northumberland
  • photograph, NL Scot., acc. no. 10098 (at end)
National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh
National Register of Archives, private collection
Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
Gentleman's Magazine
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
A. Graves, , 8 vols. (1905–6), repr. (1970), repr. (1972)
National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh