Saturday, 29 January 2011

Bathing Venus: The Bather by Albert Toft

The Bather (1915)

Here is a nice, life size bather from the early part of the twentieth century by Albert Toft (1862-1949).  Toft originally worked at the Wedgewood factory (as did his father) and studied art part time in Henley and Newcastle under Lyme. His brother, the splendidly named J Alphonsus Toft, was a painter.

Nude on a Rock

In 1881 studied at the National Art Training School (later to become the Royal College of Art) in South Kensington.  This figure can also now be found in South Kensington as Agent Triple P recently came across it in the sculpture halls of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  His teacher at the National Art Training School  was the French born sculptor Edouard Lanteri who had fled Paris for London due to the Franco-Prussian War.  Some of Lanteri's figures decorate the exterior of the V&A itself.  Lanteri was also then tutor of F W Doyle-Jones whose best known work is the figures at the main entrance to Waterloo station.


Toft did a series of nudes, such as The Bather, from the late eighteen eighties until well into the twentieth century.  These nude figures tend to have very beautiful faces with full sensuous lips, short or off the shoulder hair and realistic rather than idealised figures. 

The Bather

In 1915 The Bather was bought for the nation by the Chantrey Bequest. The successful sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841) left what was then the enormous sum of £105,000 to the Royal Academy so that they could start to build up a national collection of British Art. It was a great honour for an artist to have one of his works bought by the bequest.

The Bather

From 1885 until 1947 Toft was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy.  He produced a number of sculptures for public monuments, particularly of Queen Victoria, for provincial towns and cities in Britain as well as figures for war memorials such as the Royal London Fusiliers monument in Holborn in London.

 Royal London Fusiliers monument (1920)

This sculpture, the Spirit of Contemplation exists in a number of versions; notably one where the scroll across her lap is missing.

 Spirit of Contemplation

 Spirit of Contemplation.  Version without scroll

Spirit of Contemplation Bronze version

There is also a version that was produced in bronze.
This sculpture is of the Biblical character Hagar, the mother of Ishmael by Abraham.  This depicts the scene when, wandering with her son in the desert with no water Hagar bursts into tears and Ishmael calls on God for help.  A well then appears saving both their lives.


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