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Michael Rysbrack

(1694—1770) sculptor


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(b Antwerp, 24 June 1694; d London, 8 Jan. 1770).

Flemish-born sculptor (a member of an Antwerp family of artists), who settled in England in about 1720. He soon achieved success and for most of the 1720s and 1730s he was the leading sculptor in the country. His best-known work is perhaps the monument to Sir Isaac Newton (designed by William Kent) in Westminster Abbey (1731), with its eloquent reclining figure of the great scientist, and his most prestigious commission (won in preference to Scheemakers) is the monument to William III in Queen Square, Bristol (1733–5), usually ranked as the best equestrian statue made in England in the 18th century. However, from about 1740 (the year of Scheemakers's acclaimed Shakespeare monument in Westminster Abbey), Rysbrack began to lose ground to Scheemakers and also to Roubiliac, although he remained busy and prosperous. He was a versatile and prolific artist, hard-working and widely admired. His output included tombs, statues, architectural elements such as chimney pieces, and portraits. He was largely responsible for establishing two distinct types of portrait bust in Britain: the classical presentation of the sitter all'antica (in the manner of a Roman general or senator), and the informal depiction of the sitter en negligé (in contemporary indoor costume). His style was vigorous and dignified, less sombre than that of Scheemakers. He did not match the brilliant vivacity that characterizes Roubiliac's work, but he could sometimes rival him in beauty of handling. Among the other members of his family, the best known is his brother Pieter Andreas Rysbrack (c.1684–1748), who settled with him in England. He was a painter, his subjects including still lifes and views of country houses.

Subjects: Art.


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