|This site celebrates
the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
This article appeared in the Manchester newspaper the Evening Chronicle of 7 November
1899, illustrated by the drawings reproduced below. Among the witty
asides and oft-repeated anecdotes are some nuggets of information for
the researcher. We have provided the reference notes below.
1. Bullock's Smithy: an old name (already
obsolete in 1899) for the village of Hazel Grove, nine miles from
Manchester on the road to London. A satirical comment on the choice of
sculptor for Gladstone (below).
2. William Ewart Gladstone, four times Prime
Minister, died in 1898. The bronze memorial statue which still stands
in Albert Square, Manchester was commissioned from London-based
sculptor Mario Raggi and unveiled in 1901.
3. In 1899 Joseph Chamberlain was Secretary of
State for the Colonies, and Paul Kruger was the President of the South
African Republic; failure to respect each others' ultimatums led to the
Second Boer War which broke out in October 1899 just before as this
piece was written.
4. The drawing (above) included in the article
shows Cassidy with the bust of Scott. John Hargreaves
Scott, sometime Mayor of Burnley, Lancashire, died in 1881, and left
money to create a public park, opened in 1895 as Scott Park. A monument
to Scott was unveiled in the Park in 1898. The bust was added in
1899. (See our feature on the work.)
5. The Royal Jubilee Exhibition, Summer 1887. It
featured 'Old Manchester and Salford' an open-air exhibit of
replicas of old buildings from the two cities. Cassidy worked in one of
these, modelling clay heads of visitors.
6. From a speech by Ophelia in Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1:
O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck'd the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
7. The reference is to the Victorian fad for
Phrenology, the supposed relationship between the shape of the head and
character of the person. Philoprogenitiveness means 'love of offspring.'
8. 'Hair Restorer; cures for baldness were
much-advertised in the Victorian era.
9. Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge
(1819–1904), son of the seventh son of King George III. He died without
legitimate issue. The title was revived in 2011 for Prince William on
10. Herbert Vaughan (1832 - 1903) Roman
Catholic Bishop of Salford 1872 - 1892, Archbishop of Westminster from
1892, made a Cardinal in 1893.
11. Links in these paragraphs are to our
features on the works mentioned.
12. Samuel Ogden (1819 - 1903) textile
manufacturer, prominent member of the Manchester Athenaeum, a
gentleman's club whose headquarters, built in 1837, The club folded in
1938, and the building now forms an extension to the adjacent City Art
Gallery; the current whereabouts of the bust are unknown.
13. Longford Hall was the home of Mrs Rylands,
founder of the John Rylands Library and patron of Cassidy. A bust and a
statuette of Sir Charles Hallé, founder of the Hallé
Orchestra, are known.
14. John Cabot, explorer said to have landed on
the American continent, and his son Sebastian. The work was first
shown at the New Gallery, London, in 1896. Photographs of plaster
models, exist, but we have yet to discover any trace of a full-size
Special thanks to the
Manchester Academy of Fine arts for allowing access to the original in
HOUR WITH A SCULPTOR.
IN A STUDIO.
[By the Odd Man.]
Sculptors, like poets, are born, not made, and Nature, knowing how we
appreciate the rare, doesn't allow too many sculptors to come into this
world and go about on the sculp, so to speak.
And sculptors, like prophets, are not always honoured in their own
country. Curious, isn't it, that if there is a statue wanted in
Manchester the highly estimable gentleman who may have the matter in
hand would rather go to London and spend a few hard days and a few
jolly nights looking for a sculptor, than they would walk up to the
Lincoln Grove studio and order the article the local emporium.
But all laws have, more or less, their compensations, and other good
people make long journeys to Manchester just to get an artistic statue.
However, I suppose if there is nothing else for it, removing far from
the boundary of the Manchester rate collectors, to secure the esteem of
certain trustees, Mr. Cassidy will transfer his studio to the sylvan
remoteness of Bullock's Smithy.1
Then, possibly, those wanting a marble figure of Gladstone2,
Albert-square will take a special train and spend a quiet afternoon
with Mr. John Cassidy.
You all know Mr. Cassidy. The man who has put more people on a bust
that one cares to record. He has even furnished busts for ladies and
been most charmingly complimented on his beautiful work. I've called it
work, but it isn't really anything of the kind, it's enjoyment, pure
unadulterated pleasure, for the simple reason that it is Art.
If you were to see Mr. Cassidy making a clay model of a handsome
client, and could watch him fashioning with cunning fingers the pliable
material until the portrait is complete, you would say, "It's
wonderful!" And it is!
Of course, to a man who possesses the critical faculty, and who knows,
as Shakespeare said, "What's what!" the talent of Mr. Cassidy is great,
but it has its limitations. Let me explain. I saw him just finishing a
fine marble bust of Mr. Scott, of Burnley4.
was exquisitely done, the portrait correct,
the expression admirable, in fact, the most cultured critics would not
be able to detect a flaw or find a fault. But to me there was one thing
Perhaps Mr. Cassidy noted that disappointment was feeding on the damask
curtains, for he enquired most anxiously if I cared for the bust.
"Oh, yes," I replied. "I like it immensely, but it is short of one
thing to make it what you might call a speaking likeness!"
"What is that?" eagerly asked the sculptor.
"The power of speech."
Then we moved on to the next department.
Those of my dear and gentle readers who are old enough to remember the
Jubilee Exhibition at Old Trafford5,
mind the many happy days spent there while Mr.
Cassidy was engaged on
----- the mould of form
the observed of all observers!6
It was something new, something shocking, to see this handsome young
Irishman modelling from life. It was curious to see him putting on
bumps of reverence or philoprogenitiveness just as the sitter provided
the copy.7 It was
instructive to note how the dome of thought grew beneath his clever
hands, and how clusters of curls flourished within his fingers and
never a Restorer needed to excite a single hair.8
On the occasion when the Duke of Cambridge9
graced the Old Trafford grounds, he went along to the Old Manchester
quarter, and of course, seeing Mr. Cassidy engaged in modelling,
entered the studio. Perhaps he was unaware how Mr. Cassidy spells his
name, for he opened the conversation in Italian to the consternation of
the artist. However, he replied in pure Manchester English, and Royal
Duke and debonnair artist were soon on happy terms. Mr. Cassidy has
wondered since whether, if he had put an "i" at the end of his name
instead of a "y" he would have seen more favour. Well, two eyes are
better than one as a rule.
At the same exhibition, during the forenoon of one day when trippers
mostly did not congregate, Mr. Cassidy was busily engaged in "working
up" his clay previous to commencing modelling. It is not a very
interesting process, but it is necessary. While thus employed crowds
were passing, and one man, evidently from Oldham, looked in the studio.
He soon left, and his friends, desiring information, said, "What's
going on, Jack?" "Oh, nobbut a chap makin' bricks!"
In connection with that famous and not-to-be-forgotten Exhibition Mr.
Cassidy says that the enthusiasm which his modelling raised among the
spectators resulted in some two hundred people giving orders for busts,
but when the time came for sitting no fewer that 195 never turned up to
pose on the throne and see themselves in clay as others see them in the
Of course many orders for busts are given by wives, who promise to
send their husbands along at a stated time, and Mr. Cassidy says it is
strange what an amount of ignorance there in connection with these
Many believe that a plaster cast is taken of the features, as the
Italians used to do in days gone by, and one gentleman who had come to
sit to please his wife was in such a nervous state during the
preliminaries that Mr. Cassidy could not help wondering what was the
matter. However, as the modelling went on, and the portrait began to
assume perfection, the sitter became cheerful and chatty, and at the
end admitted that he was in fear and trembling at the start due to the
And Cardinal Vaughan, who had to undergo this terrible process when
when his portrait was commanded by the Pope, expressed to Mr. Cassidy
his delight that at last Manchester had an artists who could model and
a sculptor to whom it was a pleasure to sit.10
But though Mr. Cassidy has won fame for his busts, and during his
career he has turned out a few hundreds, he is ambitious to distinguish
himself by greater and more general works. In the John Rylands Library
are large figures representing religion, science, and art. Bristol is
adorned by a bronze statue of Edward Colston,
was accepted out of the thirty-two submitted.11
A statue of the Queen graces Belfast in front of the new Jubilee
Schools; Bolton is dignified by a fine figure of Mr. Dorrain [sic]
in the Queen's Park; Aberdeen is proud of the heroic statue of "Hygeia"; Ben Brierley
has been perpetuated for the benefit of Lancashire; at the Manchester
Athenaeum the Ogden bust is much admired12,
a superb statue of Sir Charles Hallé is the
subject of much attention on account of the faithfulness and exquisite
Another work, however, which perhaps may be classed as Mr. Cassidy's
finest effort is the bronze group of the Cabots, father and son. 14 Magnificently conceived and beautifully
carried out, it stands, today, a monumental testimony to the sculptor's
edited by Charlie Hulme, September 2011.