Joseph Wilton

(1722—1803) sculptor

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(b London, 16 July 1722; d London, 25 Nov. 1803).

English sculptor. He trained in Flanders and with Pigalle in Paris, then was in Italy from 1747 until 1755. On his return to London he rapidly became successful, his patrons including George III, for whom he did carving on a new state coach (1762, Royal Coll.), still in use today. He was a close friend of the architect Sir William Chambers, with whom he often collaborated (notably on the decorative carving of Chambers's masterpiece, Somerset House), and he was one of the original members of the Royal Academy. His portraits are generally regarded as his best works, his monuments showing him hesitating between various styles. Much of his work was executed by assistants. His talents were considerable, but he was more interested in social life than his work: in 1768 he inherited a fortune from his father (a manufacturer of ornamental plaster) but dissipated it and became bankrupt in 1793. Considering the quality of his training and his friendship with key figures in the art world, his career is a story of wasted opportunity.

Subjects: Art.

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