Bayes and the Arts and Crafts Movement

The end of the nineteenth century marked a developing enthusiasm for the Arts and Crafts movement. Gilbert Bayes had a strong belief that the artist should serve the community and serve it well. He was certainly interested in the applied arts and between 1890 and 1900 he produced large numbers of low relief plaque and panels in wax and plaster. In the oak cabinet he exhibited in 1910 he showed how panels in wax plaster as well as electrolysed and beaten metal, amongst other materials could be incorporated into furniture. He produced a wax model for a door handle in 1889 and continued with hand and standing mirrors, doorplates and furniture as well as a cabinet. He worked in plaster, wood, copper, bronze and silver and in enamels.

Bayes modelling the Dragon finial for the St Pancras Housing Association flats, 1937

Bayes modelling the Dragon finial for the St Pancras Housing Association flats, 1937

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Bayes believed that the sculptor had an important role to play in the church and he gave lectures on this area of activity. He believed that the colour rather than form, if properly used, had a very strong appeal to people. One of the earliest examples of religious works was a large stone sculpture of St Hugh for St Hugh's Church in Lincoln. The first major commissions were the rood screen during the First World War for St Mary's Church, Primrose Hill, London and the Irving lectern for the Royal Savoy Chapel London. He also made a processional cross for St Mark's Church, Hamilton Terrace, London and, on a greater scale the calvary made for St Saviour's Church in Ealing. Gilbert's first commission for stained glass windows was completed in 1928 for the Aldeburgh Church in Suffolk. This was for a memorial window for Samuel Garrett and it was his collaboration on this with Leonard Walker, which led him to become a member of the Worshipful Company of Claciers in 1933. The only other stained glass commission was the memorial to Captain Glyn Rhys Williams of Miskin Manor, Wales, who was killed in N. Africa in 1943.

Photograph hand-coloured by Bayes of the St Mark's processional cross, 1926

Photograph hand-coloured by Bayes of the St Mark's processional cross, 1926

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In the secular field, perhaps one of Gilbert Bayes's most famous pieces is the Queen of Time Clock, undertaken for Selfridges in 1930. This was in addition to many other clocks, panels and caskets that he also created. He also designed objects associated with the table, the most successful of which was the candlestick made for Allied Newspapers in 1935. He also designed a series of washing post finials or the St Pancreas Housing Association, which also showed how good Bayes could be at designing what was in effect a popular mass-produced object.

In his later years Bayes produced little applied decorative art, mainly because the commissions were no longer there.

Queen of Time Clock, undertaken for Selfridges in 1930

Queen of Time Clock, undertaken for Selfridges in 1930

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Gilbert Bayes found his garden to be a source of inspiration as well as relaxation. The mosaic pool he created around his stoneware fountain, the Blue Robed Bambino, won a Gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1925. Other ornaments he created in both Doulton stoneware and polychrome included the Lilymaid and his Great Pan as well as the Pipes of Pan, which was kept in his front garden at 4 Greville Place. He used the Doulton ware to provide colour in his garden all year round. He was strongly in favour of the use of water in public spaces. In an early commission he was asked to provide a bronze figure of St John to be placed on an existing fountain basin in the Merchant Tailors Hall in the City of London. He also produced the impressive fountain of the Valkyries, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1912. Bayes received many commissions for memorial sculptures to be placed in public spaces, including parks, graveyards and town squares.

The First World War brought an increased demand for memorial work and Bayes was required to work on statues symbolising the trauma of war and huge loss of life. His evocative piece, Destiny, in Portland stone was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1916 and later used for the centrepiece of the Ramsgate War Memorial.

Hand-coloured concept by Bayes for a garden scheme, featuring the boy with Fish, or Blue Robed Bambino fountain, c.1928

Hand-coloured concept by Bayes for a garden scheme, featuring the boy with Fish, or Blue Robed Bambino fountain, c.1928

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Sculpture and the Garden

In 1923, after working in conventional materials, Bayes began experimenting with a colourful ceramic body known as polychrome stoneware, which was made at the Royal Doulton pottery in Lambeth. This material was not only available in a wide range of colours but also resistant to frost and erosion, which made it ideal for a garden setting. The first example of the use of this new material was the Blue Robed Bambino of which Bayes had one version installed in his garden, while the other was slightly modified and made for the International Labour Offices in Geneva. On the base of this latter work were words inscribed by Bayes and of his own composition 'O Stream of Life run you slow or fast all streams come to the sea at last'.

In 1929, after Selfridges completed their famous roof garden on top of their Oxford Street store, a Doulton relief ware of the Madonna and Child was chosen to decorate one of the ornamental pools.

Bayes had also experimented with concrete as a sculpture medium and produced several panels in the Wembley Exhibition of 1924. With the use of different aggregates he was able to change both the texture and the colour so that it resembled stone. Examples of this type of sculpture are The Hesperides and the Judgement of Paris. Later, he created two garden statues in artificial stone, the Lure of the Pipes of Pan, in 1932, and The Waters Caress in 1934. He also used marble for his sculpture, and example of this is The Unfolding of Spring in 1923, the inspiration for which came from the unfolding of pear blossom outside his studio. He also made the Frog Princess in bronze for an American commission in 1929.

The Frog Princess, garden figure, bronze, 1929

The Frog Princess, garden figure, bronze, 1929

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During the 1930's, Gilbert Bayes worked on an exciting art project for the St Pancras Housing Association Improvement Society. Since he believed that art should be available to the people, this commission was close to his heart. He produced relief model lunettes of fairy tale characters for the school in the housing association as well as ceramic sculptures and finial posts. These finials were made at the Doulton Pottery between 1931 and 1938.

Bayes designed some ambitious fountain groups for other media, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in the 1930's. His Sea Urchin was shown in 1934 and although originally intended for bronze did not get past the plaster stage. Three years later he showed two plaster panels for his impressive Fountain of the Months, which was later produced, in artificial stone for a London garden. Here guests at the annual garden party that Bayes instigated when he was elected President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1939 could admire them. Although he received no further garden commissions after the Second World War, his interest in the subject never waned and his work has continued to bring pleasure in private and public settings, just as he intended.

Washing post finials; Thistle, Fish, Blackbird and Rose

Washing post finials; Thistle, Fish, Blackbird and Rose

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War Memorials

Following the aftermath of the First World War, there was a great need to commemorise those who had fallen in battle and whose bodies could not be brought home. The listing of names was also the driving force behind the War Memorial Movement in the 1920's and exhibitions were held at the Royal Academy at the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as other regional centres in order to guide local committees in their choice of sculptors, manufacturers, materials, styles and subject matter. In the Victoria and Albert Exhibition of 1919 not only was work by living sculptors shown but also models for memorials, objects, designs and photographs were exhibited. Gilbert Bayes was one of 200 sculptors, artists and designers in many fields who exhibited. The first of the five exhibits shown by Bayes was a photograph of the St Mary's Church, Primrose Hill Rood Screen that had been installed in 1914. Also included in this exhibition was a plaster copy of a relief, created for Aldeburgh, Suffolk and subsequently shown at the Royal Academy. Another piece of work in this exhibition was Bayes's Destiny, which was used as the focal point of the War Memorial in Ramsgate, Kent as well as a plaster of an equestrian statue that was also shown at the Royal Academy exhibition. In 1915, Bayes had submitted to the Art Gallery in New South Wales, a pair of 18 inch bronzed plasters figures entitled Offerings of Peace and Offerings of War. In 1916 he was commissioned to make much large bronze versions to be mounted outside the Museum's main façade.

The installation of his panel, the King and Queen of Assyria in 1926, which had been selected by George Frampton as part of a larger work in 1903 established Bayes as a modern sculptor with a growing reputation as well as his suitability for a war memorial artist.

The first of the commissions following the exhibition was for a memorial for Broadstone, Dorset, followed by two stylistically related memorials for Hythe in Kent in 1921 and Todmorton in Yorkshire and unveiled in 1921. A commission received from the National War Memorial in St John's, Newfoundland in 1920 and finally unveiled in 1924 was the final large scale sculpture that Bayes undertook, which related to the First World War. After the Second World War, Bayes was commissioned to add an airman to the group.

In addition to freestanding memorials, Bayes also designed and made a series of panels and tablets, the most significant of which was the elaborate scheme for the Law Society. Commissioned after World War One, this was further modified after the Second World War, at the request of the Law Society and dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1949.

St George was a theme employed by Bayes along with many other war memorial sculptors and he used this on many occasions. An example of this was the memorial to the Missing of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Jerusalem, unveiled in 1927, a more passive version of which was used for the memorial for St Basil's Church, near Newport Gwent.

Commissions were received after the Second World War from Imperial Chemistry Industry and for the Sun Insurance Company. Perhaps one of his most significant works of this period is the commission he undertook for Goldcoast Forces Memorial, in which he employed a life model for the bronze soldier figure.

In his output and stylistic diversity, Bayes made a significant contribution to the War Memorial Movement. His commissions from 1916 to 1950 spanned both World Wars and through his working methods, his extensive use of exhibitions, his contacts with friends and his use of modern yet familiar styles, Bayes reveals the ways in which sculptors of his time gained war memorial commissions and just how valuable these were for him and his contemporaries.

Dying Soldier panel in stone, Aldeburgh War Memorial, 1918

Dying Soldier panel in stone, Aldeburgh War Memorial, 1918

Offering of Peace, full-size bronze In Sydney, Australia

Offering of Peace, full-size bronze In Sydney, Australia

Postcard of Newfoundland National War Memorial

Postcard of Newfoundland National War Memorial

Gold Coast soldier, 1946

Gold Coast soldier, 1946

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Sculpture and Architecture

Gilbert Bayes was passionately in favour of sculpture that was accessible to the man in the street without sacrificing art or integrity whilst also being intelligent and interesting to his intended audience. He believed that architectural sculpture should blend, to some extent, with the building on which it was placed.

He received his first architectural commission after entering a competition in 1903 to design a bronze relief panel for the façade of the New South Wales Art Gallery. Subjects typical of Assyrian or Egyptian art were required and his design depicting Assur-Natsir-Pal, King of Syria was selected by his assessors and the panel took its place in 1907. He was also one of the young sculptors chosen to contribute figures of famous artists and architects for the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1905. This was part of a scheme of 34 statues, to be submitted in quarter-size models and if successful, full size models within two months. After these had been hoisted into position and approved, the stone carving had to be completed within two months. He produced portraits of Sir Charles Barry and Sir William Chambers in Portland stone for the Cromwell Road façade. Bayes was successful with his submission of The Bronze Age in winning a commission for part of the sculptural decoration of the National Museum of Wales in1914. Later the title of the period was changed to, respectively, The Prehistoric Period and The Classic Period for the main façade. Work on the sculptures continued throughout the First World War, form which Bayes was exempt because of his commission for War and Peace for the New South Wales Art Gallery, and the carving was completed in 1917. These latter statues established Bayes's reputation as a major sculptor of monumental and architectural works. Many commissions followed in the UK and overseas, including the request from St John Burnet for Bayes to design a bronze niche figure of St George for the memorial chapel in Jerusalem and which was erected in 1927. Burnet and Bayes had collaborated on other sculptures and settings previously but perhaps the most famous was on the extensions for Selfridge's Department store in Oxford Street. Bayes was commissioned to produce heroic statues of the four winds for the top of a massive tower. Full size plaster models had been made before the scheme was halted due to planning permission being denied for the size of the towers. Bayes was paid for his work and went on to his next project for Selfridges, the provision of a monumental clock for the main doorway. The main figure, soon dubbed the Queen of Time, which was a bronze cast by Burton's and embellished with gold and inlaid with blue stoneware supplied by Doulton's of Lambeth and was finally installed in 1931 where it was proclaimed on contemporary postcards as 'London's newest meeting place - under the clock at Selfridge's'. Bayes also contributed several other sculptural adornments for the new part of the store, which included a bronze panel of Pegasus laid in the floor of the main entrance in honour of Gordon Selfridge, the store's founder and who was a great admirer of Bayes's work and who displayed a cast of the Guardian of the Seas, from 1927, in his private office. Mention has also been made of the Madonna and Child that Bayes contributed to the roof garden. To commemorate the Coronation in 1937, he created a colossal figure of Peace to crown the main façade. Finally when Gordon Selfridge retired in 1939, Bayes designed a memorial relief and portrait, which was accompanied by an illuminated address by his sister, Jessie. Further commissions followed during the 1920's and 1930's including an impressive bronze and mosaic floor roundel for the main banking hall for Lloyds Bank, which was featured in the building press of the period. He also produced two massive terminal figures of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and Hebe, the goddess of youth for the Royal Masonic Hospital in Ravenscourt Park. In 1934 he produced in Portland stone a full-size frieze for Lord's Cricket Ground. Significant commissions followed including reliefs, Drama Through the Ages, for the Saville Theatre and a series of tinted bas-reliefs for the new BBC Concert Hall, depicting mythic figures for the western wall and modern themes for the eastern wall.

By the early 1920's Bayes already had considerable experience with concrete. In collaboration with artist Thomas Penberthy Bennett, in 1924, Bayes produced low relief panels in cement that were then painted to resemble neo-classical stucco work, for which he used the theme, Music Art and Science.

It was Bayes's interest in the use of colour for sculpture, which initiated a singularly long, and successful association with the ceramic manufacturers, Doulton and Company, mentioned earlier, and its development of polychrome stoneware. Bayes was the first artist to take interest in this medium and it was owing to him that it was so successfully exploited in the inter-war years. Bayes used his experience from the St Pancras Housing commission in producing a fifty feet long frieze of Pottery through the Ages for the Company's new headquarters on the Lambeth Embankment. The Doulton House frieze was dismantled in 1979 when the building was demolished but it was restored and re-erected in the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1988.

Bayes's last architectural commission, in 1951, was for a university building, Withersdane Hall at Wye College. Although there was some disagreement with the clients about the sketch model, the classical style was to their taste and the Empire Stone Company cast the panel in 1952.

Sir William Chambers and Sir Charles - Barry, the façade of The Victoria & Albert - Museum London, completed in 1905

Sir William Chambers and Sir Charles - Barry, the façade of The Victoria & Albert - Museum London, completed in 1905

Bayes working on the plaster of St George

Bayes working on the plaster of St George

Details of the Pottery Through The Ages, Frieze made in Doulton ware in 1939 - now in the V & A Museum

Details of the Pottery Through The Ages, Frieze made in Doulton ware in 1939 - now in the V & A Museum

Harvest Panel, in Empire Stone, Wye College 1952

Harvest Panel, in Empire Stone, Wye College 1952

Dr David Yellowlees MD LLD Bronze plaque, 1905

Dr David Yellowlees MD LLD Bronze plaque, 1905

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1650-1722 Bronze 1933

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1650-1722 Bronze 1933

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Portait Sculpture

In 1899, Gilbert Bayes executed his first portrait sculpture, which was a marble bust of Sir Richard Moon, Chairman of the London and North Western Railway. After 1900, as his reputation grew, commissions became more numerous, not least to commemorate men and women who had achieved distinction in their lives. In 1902/3 he executed two commissions, the first for Dr David Yellowlees of Gartnaval Hospital, to mark his retirement that year, and the second for philosopher and Hellenist, Robert Adamson, who had died in 1902, which was commissioned by Glasgow University in a bronze relief. Also in 1903 he undertook a commission, in bronze relief for the Italian scientist who had invented the electric battery, Count Alesandro Volta (1745-1827). An elaborate relief of Professor Henry Sidgwick followed in 1905.


On 26 June 1909, Alfred Bayes, his father died. In 1907 Gilbert had done an unsentimental bust of his father. A commission followed in 1909 after the death of the leading French actor, Benoit Constant Coquelin for Bayes to make a memorial for presentation the Comedie-Francaise. Two commissions for memorials followed in 1910, for the churchyard of St James Warter, in Yorkshire, of respectively, Lord Nonburnholme of Warter Priory and Gerald Valerion Wilson of Shillinglee Park. Further commissions followed on from these in 1934 when Bayes created a memorial for Lady Isabel Wilson following her death and a bronze of 10th Earl of Chesterfield, after his death in 1933. In the same year Bayes produced a bronze equestrian statue of John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough. In 1911, an Indian commission of a memorial for Lady Tata was undertaken. In 1913 a further Indian commission for the Maharajah Ratan Singh, who had died that year was undertaken in an over-life-size marble. A commission from John Burnet for a sculpture for the main entrance to the Institute of Chemistry resulted in a sculpted stone seated and reading figure of Joseph Priestley, the scientist who had identified oxygen.


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At the end of the Great War Bays was commissioned by the Machine Gun training centre to provide a presentation bronze of Earl Brownlow, squire of Belton House, Lincolnshire. In the following year Bayes executed two memorials to men eminent in the City and who both lived in Surrey, Sir Edward Hopkinson Holden, a barrister and Liberal MP and Sir Walpole Lloyd Greenwell, a Lieutenant of the City of London. In 1923, Bayes executed a bronze relief plaque for William Richard Lethaby, architect, designer and reformer. Also in 1923, Bayes executed a bronze bust of F W Troup, who was Master of the Art Workers Guild during that period. Bayes also modelled a small equestrian statue of Lt. Col. Percy Robert Laurie, a decorated soldier of the First World War and later Chief of the Mounted Police. Another war hero and national figure who Bayes sculpted was Field Marshall Douglas Haig. He modelled two versions, both mounted, but in different dress and stances. He also undertook a splendid bronze plaque to Gordon Selfridge, on his retirement in 1939.Also in 1939, Leonard Bentall, commissioned a memorial to Maurice Webb, architect of the great Surrey store after he died. Bayes also did the model for the bronze lion's head for Ralph Knott's County Hall in London and after Knott's death in 1929, produced a commemorative portrait plaque of him shown in profile, which was set up at the former Members' entrance at County Hall.

One of Bayes' most diverting sitters was the formidable Dame Ethel Smyth, the leading female composer of her time for whom he created a bust before she died in 1944. He also produced a statuette of a young Welsh Guards army officer, Captain Glyn David Rhys-Williams for his 21st birthday in November 1942. In the dark days of 1943, Bayes produced a light-hearted portrait of his daughter Jean, jokingly entitled the Sultana of Champough. Further commissions followed after the Second World War and up to Bayes' death in 1953, including one started by Leonard Merrifield of Herbert Asquith, which Bayes finished after Merrifield's death. Bayes' last large memorial was of Robert Owen, commissioned by Co-operative societies and completed after his death by W.C. King.

Aristocrats, and philosophers, dons and war heroes, city men and merchant adventurers, Indian kings and mercantile princes, worthy professional men and energetic radicals or other mortals who deserved poignant memorials, Gilbert Bayes took them all in his stride in his long career and gave of his best.

Sir Edward Holden, 1848-1919 Plaster maquette for bronze relief

Sir Edward Holden, 1848-1919 Plaster maquette for bronze relief

Dame Ethel Smyth DBE Plaster, 1938

Dame Ethel Smyth DBE Plaster, 1938

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Bayes and The Medal

Gilbert Bayes exhibited one or more sculptures at the Royal Academy virtually every year for over half a century between 1889 and 1944. Since he had incorporated inscriptions into his earliest reliefs, his involvement in medallic work was a natural progression. His first medal was the Orchardson Medal, commissioned by the St John's Wood Art School, which was close to where he lived and part of the artistic society where he was active. The second medallic commission was from the Royal Geographical Society for a medal to be presented to Captain Scott and his colleagues on their return form the Antarctic expedition of 1902-4.The Society was obviously pleased with Bayes' submission for when Ernest Shackleton returned form his Antarctic expedition of 1909, it again approached Bayes for a medal. The Royal Geographical Society commissions earned for Bayes something of a reputation as a medallist and other organisations began to turn to him for their medals. In1907 the National Rose Society instituted a Gold Medal in memory of its founder and recently deceased president Dean Samuel Reynolds Hole and Bayes was asked to design it with the first presentation being made in 1909. Another commission came from the Rubber Growers' Association, formed in 1907 and presented for services to the rubber industry was first distributed in 1911. A further commission resulted in a medal for Country Life magazine as part of its awards to the annual rifle competition for schools, in addition to the trophy that was also distributed. Another privately commissioned medal of about the same time was produced for the Brentford Gas Company.

Beside these private medals, Bayes also received official commissions. In July 1909, as a result of a request by the Association of Chief Constables, Edward VII issued a royal warrant instituting the King's Police Medal, to be awarded for acts of courage on the parts of members of police forces and fire brigades in Britain and throughout the Empire. After some controversy over the design, this was finally approved. Twenty-three years later, at the wish of George V, the medal was to be replaced by two separate medals, one for long service and one for gallantry for which Bayes' design was retained with new legends fitted in the exergue. Later that year Gilbert Bayes was commissioned to submit designs for the Great Seal. Considerable controversy took place over the design of this and a design by another artist was accepted only to be interrupted by the outbreak of war. Another official commission was for a design for the reverse of the Edward Extension Medal, awarded for acts of bravery in the workplace and was awarded at the same time that Bayes was still working on the Great Seal. After the submission of more designs from the artist, in December 1911, royal approval was given. A final official commission came to Bayes after the First World War, when in 1919, it was decided to change the Imperial Service Medal from a star to a circular medal. The commission was for the reverse side and the process went smoothly.

Private medal commissions, however, continued, largely as a result of personal friendships. Two commissions from the Institute of Actuaries were received, one for a Gold Medal in honour of George James Lidstone in 1929 and the second in 1937 for when William Palin Elderton was to be honoured. Another commission of the inter- war years came in 1924 from the Worshipful Company of Musicians again as a result of personal friendship. Walter Wilson Cobbett, who in 1928 became its master, endowed the medal. It was to be presented annually to a distinguished musician for services to chamber music. In the following year, Bayes received a commission for a medal from the Royal Society of British Sculptures. This medal was to be awarded annually for the best work by a British sculptor exhibited in London during the previous twelve months. This medal, which was produced by Pinch's from Bayes' design, was completed in March 1926. Also in 1925 a commission was received from the London and North Eastern Railway Company to mark the railway's elaborate celebration of July of that year. During the Second World War the company again approached Bayes once it decided that a medal should be awarded to employees for acts of bravery. The models were submitted and passed in May1941.

A series of commissions were received from the Royal Automobile Club in the form of the Segrave Trophy and medals (see Segrave Trophy).

In 1935 Bayes suggested that a medal should be produced to commemorate the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary, which the Cunard board agreed to commission. After considerable debate as to the design of both sides of the medal, it was completed in November of that year. By the end of the following January the first five thousand had been struck by the Royal Mint. Five Gold medals were produced two for presentation to King Edward VIII and Queen Mary, two for Mr and Mrs Roosevelt and one for Percy Bates, Chairman of the shipping line, as a gift from the Cunard board.

Bayes' final medal was commissioned in 1948 by the Chapter-General of the Order of St John and was the second of the series of revived portrait medals of The Grand Priors of England.

At a time when avant-garde sculptors were carving directly into stone and turning their back on the medal, the more conservative Bayes was flexible enough to include medals amongst his varied output. The quality of their design and modelling ensures for Bayes a foremost position amongst British medallists for the first half of the twentieth century.

The Orchardson Medal, Silver Medal, 1904

The Orchardson Medal, Silver Medal, 1904

Edward VII King's Police Medal, silver, 1913

Edward VII King's Police Medal, silver, 1913

London and North Eastern Railway Medal for Bravery, Silver 1941

London and North Eastern Railway Medal for Bravery, Silver 1941

Queen Mary Medal

Queen Mary Medal