Humphrey Hopper (1765-1844)

Typical monument by Humphrey Hopper.

The sculptor and monumental mason Humphrey Hopper was born in Wolsingham, County Durham, and is known to have lived in London by shortly before 1800 – in 1801, at the age of 36, he attended the Royal Academy Schools, studying sculpture. From 1815, he settled at 13 Wigmore Street, and there he remained for the last three decades of his life.

His early sculptures include various allegorical females, and he made something of an industry in making lampstands based on nice Classical girls, as well as a range of other small decorative sculpture. Later he exhibited portrait busts in marble, but the bulk of his surviving work consists of funerary monuments, rather a large oeuvre, dotted around mainly southern counties, with several within various London churches. He made one national monument, that to Major-General Hay (d.1814) in St Paul’s Cathedral, but this, a group of three figures, with the Admiral, slumped against a figure of Hercules on one side, with a soldier standing and looking away on the other, and a row of background figures marching off to the right, has been much criticised. There is much to admire in the detail of the principal figures, but together, they make an uneasy and unlikely composition. Among his many smaller monuments, some are relatively simple panels in the prevailing style of the day – white panel on black, generally with some small amount of carving, and a small number include figure sculpture. A personal favourite of mine is the monument to John Henry North, d.1831, in Harrow on the Hill Church, with a beautiful girl collapsed in despair over a funereal urn. Also in London can be mentioned the panel to Juliana Coulson, d.1831, in Teddington Church, with a dead dove lying on its back, quite touching, Martha Gammell, d.1840, in St Luke’s Chelsea, with book and crossed branches, and Thomas Ravenshaw, d.1842, in Fulham Church with book, branches, and crucifix; a variation on the same grouping is the monument to John Lord Teignmouth, d.1834, in Marylebone Parish Church. It is in these small monuments with minor sculptural adornments that Hopper does some of his best work.

Humphrey Hopper signature (click to enlarge).

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