Collection of papers, drawings and photographs of Albert Toft

Scope and Content

This collection is made up mainly of studio prints and portrait photographs of Albert Toft throughout his life, including photographs of Toft working in his studio on some of his sculpture and also featuring photographs of some of his sculptures.

There are also sketches and drawings of life classes and portraits, mainly of female and male profiles and a few studies of parrots and cockatoos. Within the the sketches and drawings there are some items relating to early sketches and ideas for 'Old Odell' and 'Joie de Vivre' and possibly an early idea for the Chadderton war memorial.

There is a series of letters showing the progression of a commission of a Philip James Bailey bust for the Holbrook Trust, and also a few personal letters including some from Sir William Reid-Dick.

There is also some material relating to Toft's affiliation with the 'Savage Club' including caricatures and menus signed by Toft's contemporaries including George Loraine Stampa and P.W Fearon.

Amongst Toft's personal papers is his will and three codicils which details the beneficiaries of his estate and his original letter to join the National Arts Training School in 1881.

Administrative / Biographical History

Albert Arthur Toft was born on the 3rd June 1862 in Birmingham, the son of Charles Toft (1832-1909) who was principle modeller for the Wedgwood factory and brother of J. Alfonso Toft (1871- 1964) who was an artist. Toft was apprenticed at the Josiah Wedgwood Factory at Etruria and studied at evening classes at the Hanley School of Art, he then went on to Newcastle under Lyme School of Art.

In 1881 Toft won a scholarship to attend the National Arts Training School in South Kensington (later Royal College of Art) where he trained under Edward Lanteri (1848- 1917) and received silver medals in his second and third years. 'The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography' describes Toft as one of the major figures of "New Sculpture" following on from William 'Hamo' Thornycroft and George Frampton. Toft has described his work as 'Idealist' but he also said of himself that "to become an idealist you must necessarily first be a realist."

From 1885 onwards Toft exhibited at the Royal Academy and some of his most notable works exhibited at the Royal Academy included 'Fate-Led' (1890), 'The Sere and Yellow Leaf' (1892), 'Spring' (1897), 'The Spirit of Contemplation' (1901) and 'The Metal Pourer' (1915). In 1915 his sculpture 'The Bather' was purchased using the Royal Academy's Chantrey Fund. In 1900 Toft received a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris

Although Toft was never elected to membership to the Royal Academy, in 1891 he was elected to the Art Workers Guild and in 1938 he was elected a fellow to the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

Toft's sculpture can be seen in the permanent collections at the Walker Art Galley in Liverpool ('Fate Led'), the Laing Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne ('The Spirit of Contemplation') and the Birmingham Art Gallery ('Spring' and 'Vision'). Toft's commissions also include War Memorials to the South African War in Birmingham, East Suffolk, Warwickshire and Cardiff. Toft also produced statues for the Hall of Memory in Birmingham which are allegorical images of the army, the navy, the air force and also women's services.

As well as War Memorials Toft also produced dedication statues to Queen Victoria in Leamington, Nottingham and South Shields, dedications to King Edward VII in Highgate Park and Birmingham and a dedication to Sir Charles Mark Palmer in Newcastle upon Tyne.Toft was also well known for his production of busts including a terracotta bust of George Wallis and busts of William Gladstone, Philip James Bailey (for the Holbrook Trust, Nottingham) and Robert Bontine Cunnighame Graham (now in the National Galleries of Scotland).

In addition to practising sculpture, in 1911 Toft produced a book entitled 'Modelling and Sculpture' which was reprinted in 1949 and was intended as a handbook for students of sculpture.

Toft was a member of the Savage Club, a "bohemian gentleman's club" founded in 1857 where membership is classified according to five categories; Art, Music, Drama, Literature, Science and Law. Toft appears to have been a member from c. 1917 until c.1947.

Albert Toft was married to Florence Emma Toft and had five children; Phyllis Evelyn (Richardson), Edith Gladys (Bousfield), Alice Constance (Harding), Francis Sybil (Toft) and Albert Victor Vernon (Toft). Albert Toft died on 18th December 1949, aged 86 in Worthing.


The archive has been arranged into the following series order:

  • 2003.4/A- Photographs and postcards
  • 2003.4/B- Sketches and drawings
  • 2003.4/C- Letters and papers
  • 2003.4/D- Affiliations

It appears that the original order of the collection may have been lost so it was decided to group the series according to the medium and in some cases subject of the item. As the collection consists mainly of photographs and sketches and drawings it was felt that it would be better to keep these together as series and to subdivide them based on the subject matter for ease of searching. Although some of the items within the Savage Club file also fell under sketches and drawings it was felt that it was better to keep them within the original context of belonging with the Savage Club, rather than personal sketches by Albert Toft.The letters had also lost some context and so were grouped according to subject and then put into date order.

Access Information

Available to all registered researchers. The Archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the HMI archive searchroom

Archivist's Note

Archive Hub description was created by Janette Martin. Biographical information from 'Albert Arthur Toft FRBS', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [, accessed 19 Nov 2015]

Related Material

The National Archives holds a file of requests made by Albert Toft to secure copyright for some of his works and also holds accompanying photographs. Copy 1/509.

Leeds Musuems and Galleries holds:

  • Maquette for Hagar c.1899 (plaster)
  • Maquette for Hagar c. 1899 (tinted plaster)
  • Self-portrait bust c.1900 (painted plaster)
  • Maquette for the Metal Pourer c.1913 (painted plaster)
  • Maquette for Joie de Vivre 1927 (plaster)
  • Maquette for Joie de Vivre 1927 (tinted plaster)
  • Medallion of Ellen Terry (1848-1928) 1936 (tinted plaster)

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery holds:SpringVision

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool holds:Fate-Led

Laing Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne holds:The Spirit of Contemplation

There are also various public statues and War Memorials in Birmingham (South Africa Memorial 1905), East Suffolk, Warwickshire and Cardiff (Welsh national memorial South Africa). There are also statues of Queen Victoria in Leamington, Nottingham (1905) and South Shields and a statue of King Edward VII in Highgate Park and in Birmingham.


A photograph of Toft and a very short notice about his career appeared in 'The Stone Trades Journal' Vol XXX, no. 9, March 1911, p. 650.