Correspondence, notes and press-cuttings relating to Alfred Stevens and in particular to the controversy about the completion of the Wellington Memorial in St Paul's Cathedral

Scope and Content

This collection relates particularly to the campaign conducted on the letters pages of 'The Times' in 1903 for the completion of the Wellington Monument and was put together by M H Spielmann an admirer of Stevens' work who was concerned that the work should be finished by a sculptor whose name was "Worthy to be linked with that of Alfred Stevens". He had serious doubts about the sculptor, James Tweed, who had been selected for the task. To gain support Spielmann was in correspondence with Hamo Thorneycroft, Edward Poynter, Hubert von Herkomer, Lord Balcarres, Alexandra Orr, John Clayton and James Gamble, a former pupil of Stevens. The collection also contains drafts of Spielmann's letters to 'The Times', press-cuttings and a file of notes and letters containing information about Stevens' life put together by the Rev. James Cross.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alfred George Stevens, painter, sculptor, decorator and architectural designer was born in Blandford Forum, Dorset, on 30th December 1817. As a child he showed such promise in drawing and painting that a number of friends subscribed to send him to Italy to further his education.He stayed there from 1833 until 1842, studying for part of that time under Thorwalden in Rome. He returned to England and worked 1845-47 at the Government School of Design at Somerset House, moving to Sheffield in 1850 to take a position as a designer for the metal-workers, Hoole and Robson. Stevens was primarily a designer and decorator, working among other projects on Dorchester House, Harewood House and Daysbrook Hall. He produced only a few paintings, mostly portraits, but a large quantity of drawings, plans and designs have survived as have his bronze models.
Stevens' most famous commission was the Wellington Monument in St Paul's Cathedral on which he began work in 1858. There followed years of argument, struggling with the unsympathetic Office of Works which insisted on a full scale model being produced, and the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's. The Government grant for the project was drastically cut after the scheme had been costed leading to financial hardship. These problems may have contributed to his early death, aged 58, in 1875. The monument was not erected until several years after his death and then in an unfinished state without the surmounting equestrian statue, to which the Dean objected, and it was placed in a side chapel. Thanks to a campaign led by Lord Leighton and other artists, well supported by the press, it was eventually moved to the site intended by Stevens - the third arch of the nave. There was further controversy in 1903 about the completion of the monument. Some authorities thought that it should be completed by asking another sculptor to finish the planned equestrian statue, which existed only as a plaster cast. Others thought the work should be left unfinished rather than entrust the work to another sculptor who might not carry out the work exactly as Stevens intended. The work was finally completed to Stevens' original design in January 1912 by the Scottish sculptor James Tweed.

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