Gilbert Bayes was born on 4 April 1872, the second son of a professional artist Alfred Walter and Emily Ann Bayes (nee Fielden), in North London. He was interested in sculpture from an early age and for him this was the only occupation he wished to consider. He worked in the City for some tie merchants before attending first the City and Guilds and later the Royal Accademy Schools. He was greatly influenced by the works of George Frampton, one of the finest sculptors in the country. During his attendance at the Academy Schools he won the Armitage Prize for composition in 1897, a silver medal for life modelling in 1898 and the Gold Medal in 1899 when he also won the Landseer Scholarship together with a £200 travelling scholarship. This scholarship was spent in living for three months in Italy and nine months in France. It was during this latter period in France that Gilbert became engaged to Gertrude Smith, who had been a fellow student. They married in 1906 and went to live in Boundary Road, North London. They had two children, Jean, born in 1910 and Geoffrey, born in 1912.
In 1911 Gilbert was commissioned to design the Great Seal for George V, which was an important sign of recognition. During this period he also taught at the Camberwell School of Art. He volunteered for service in the First World War but was initially classified as medically unfit. Later when he was called up he was exempted due to the importance of the Australian War Memorial upon which he was engaged during that period. He had a close connection with the Art Workers Guild, which provided both friendships and personal contacts.
In 1929 Gilbert, Gertrude and their family moved to 4 Greville Place which provided them with not only a spacious garden but also for the potential for both of them to have their own studios. This also afforded them the room to entertain and Gilbert designed the garden with pergolas and ponds, inlaid with mosaic, as a foil to show off his garden sculptures.
These inter-war years were probably the most successful for Gilbert, during which time he served as Master of the Art Workers Guild as well as winning a Bronze Medal at the Paris Salon in 1929 and a Gold Medal in 1939. He was awarded the Royal Society of British Sculptors' Medal in 1931 and two years later was awarded the Freedom of the City of London, among other honours. During the years of the Second World War he served as President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and Vice-President of the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors.
With the change in the direction of British sculpture after 1945, there were not the same opportunities for his style of sculpture. Gertrude was by now bedridden after a stroke and for the last seven years of her life required his constant attention. After Gertrude died in 1952, his health rapidly deteriorated and he died on 10 July 1953.
Later, however, following the Doulton Exhibition, the works of Gilbert Bayes began to enjoy something of a renaissance. Now his work can be seen at the V & A where there is not only a large frieze 'Pottery through the Ages' but also a sculpture gallery in his name where his work can be seen.
Gilbert Bayes in his thirties
1872 | Bayes born 4th April
1888 | First exhibit at the Arts and crafts Society, Regent Street
1889 | First exhibit at the Royal Academy, aged 17
1890 | Joined an office of tie merchants in the city
1891-6 | Attended evening classes at City and Guilds College, Finsbury
1896 | Won County Council Scholarship for two years | Attended Royal Academy Schools
1897 | Won Armitage Prize and £30 for composition
1898 | Anatomical figure cast in bronze was purchased by the Royal Academy
1899 | Won Gold Medal, Scholarships for Landseer (£80) and travelling (£200)
1900 | Best work of the year | Received Honorable mention at Paris Int. Exhibition
1906 | Married Gertrude Smith | Taught at Camberwell Art School
1908 | Daughter, Jean, born
1910 | Sigurd purchased by the Chantrey Bequest
1912 | Son, Geoffrey, born
1918 | Exempted from war service because of the equestrian statues for Australia
1918 | Became an Honorary member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours
1922 | Became an Honorary member of the Société des Artistes Français
1925 | Awarded Diploma of Honour and Gold Medal at Paris Exhibition
1925 | Elected Master of the Art Workers' Guild
1929 | Won Bronze Medal at the Paris Salon
1930 | Moved to Greville Place and built new studio
1930 | Published 'Modelling for Sculpture
1931 | Awarded Royal Society of British Sculpture Medal for Saville Theatre
1933 | Awarded Freedom of City of London
1939 | Won Gold Medal at the Paris Salon
1939-4 | Elected Vice President: Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors
1939-4 | Elected President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors
1952 | Wife, Gertrude, died
1953 | Bayes died 10th July (aged eighty-one)