Details of Sculptor

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Surname Physick family Alternative Surname
First Name of London Initial of Surname P
Year of Birth/Baptism Flourished
Year of Death
Biographical Details Edward Physick active c1769
Edward William Physick c1774-1862
Edward Gustavus Physick 1802-1875
Charles Physick born 1810
Robert Physick 1815-1865/6
Edward James Physick 1829-1906
The Physick family hailed from villages of Cornwall on the Atlantic coast, north of Bodmin Moor, and along the Tamar Valley to Tavistock. The 19th century sculptors were descended from husbandmen in the area of Stoke Climsland. In 1769, Edward Physick settled land and property in Cornwall and Devon on his son, Edward William Physick, mason, of Downing Street, Middx. As Sir Henry Cheere leased many properties in the area from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, there is a possibility that Physick was one of the workmen in Cheere’s yard adjacent to St Margaret’s church. For well over a century, the eldest son was named Edward, which sometimes makes identification problematic.
It is not known how Edward William Physick blossomed as a sculptor, but by 1810 he began to exhibit at the Royal Academy and continued regularly until 1842. Between 1824 and 1838 he also exhibited at the British Institution. Although most of his exhibited works seems to have been portrait busts, he also executed ideal subjects such as The parting of Hector and Andromache, 1824 (165) and St John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, 1832 (179), and several church monuments from the 1820s to the 1840s . He lived from 1810-24 at 23 Spring Street, Portman Square and then at 16 Park Terrace, Regent’s Park. He is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Three of his sons, Charles, Robert and Edward Gustavus, exhibited from the same address. Charles Physick became a student at the Royal Academy Schools aged 21 in 1831, to which he had been recommended by Samuel Joseph. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Suffolk Street Galleries; Robert Physick, when aged 22, became a student in the Royal Academy Schools in 1837, sponsored by Thomas Maisey, where he won the silver medal in 1840, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1837-56.
Edward William’s eldest son was Edward Gustavus Physick. In 1823, while living at 20 Spring Street, Portman Square, he received the silver medal from the Society of Arts for the figures of Telemachus and Narcissus (80), winning the same medal again in the following year. In 1825 he moved to 16 Park Terrace, Regent’s Park and that year won the gold Isis medal and a year later the large gold medal. At the Society of Arts prize distribution in 1825, one report stated that ‘We could not but smile at the good-natured observation of the Duke [of Sussex] when a candidate was announced by the name of Physick, who before had been rewarded by the Society and who is a very clever youth’. The President spoke of the nausea which the name treated, but added, ‘what’s in a name?’. Physick exhibited Maternal playfulness (84), first at the Royal Academy in 1835, and then at the Birmingham Society of Artists in 1839. He showed Timidity at Westminster Hall in 1844 (90) and Head of the dying Saviour (134) was first shown at the British Institution in 1850, and then at the Great Exhibition of 1851. He executed a group above the portico of the Female Orphans School in St John’s Wood in 1854 (94). Physick exhibited at the Royal Academy 1822-1871, and at the British Institution from 1834 to 1866.
Edward James Physick, the eldest son of Edward Gustavus Physick attended the Royal Academy Schools in 1847, at the age of 18, on the recommendation of Edward Hodges Baily. In the same year he won a large silver medal for a figure of Mercury from the Society of Arts (91). In 1849 he was awarded the Royal Academy’s gold medal for a high relief of the Rape of Proserpine, which he showed at the Royal Academy in 1850 and at the Great Exbibition of 1851. This was given to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2004 (158). He exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1848-1863, and at the British Institution,1849-1855. Among his many church monuments is that to Robert Campbell, (†1846), in St Philip’s, Sydney, which has life-sized figures of Faith, Hope and Charity, and is said to be the largest in Australia (36). He is recognised as having thought up the idea of using lead letters and figures inserted into inscriptions, c1853. In 1848 he was living in his father’s house at 20 Upper Gloucester Place, later at 6 Gloucester Place, and by 1863 settled permanently at 136 Marylebone Road. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.
The PRO records of the 1857 competition for the monument in St Paul’s Cathedral to the Duke of Wellington do not include entrants’ names, but a contemporary journal noted that ‘Mr Physick’ had entered a model (AJ, Sept 1857, 293). This could have been either Edward James or his father Edward Gustavus.
His eldest son did not follow in his father’s profession but became a poet and writer under the pen name of Edward Harold Visiak. A younger son Sidney Herbert Physick (1868-1961) gained a scholarship in sculpture to the South Kensington School, winning book prizes and a bronze medal. He then went on to the Royal Academy Schools, sponsored by his sister-in-law’s brother, J W Waterhouse RA. Here he gained the Landseer scholarship (Sculpture) and the silver medal and was awarded the British Institution’s scholarship for a bas-relief of the Good Samaritan. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and worked in the studios of Sir Thomas Brock and Sir Hamo Thornycroft. For the latter he modelled the clay effigy for the large bronze of Bishop Goodwin in Carlisle Cathedral in 1892.
A Robert Physick of 20 Carlton Street, who died on 2 November 1882, was probably a relative, and it is likely that he was the sculptor of the unidentified bust sold at Sotheby’s in March 1989 (lot 329). His son, William Valentine Physick, born in 1843, was described as a marble carver and exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1864-71, and at the British Institution in 1868.
John Physick
Literary References: RSA Transactions, 1823-26; Burgess 1963, 247; Gunnis, 1968,302, 303; Physick 1970, 45; Manning 1982, 202; Curl 2001, 215; Physick 2002, 9-11
Archival References: RA admissions 1831, 1832, 1847; RA premium list, passim
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