Thomas, James Havard (1854-1921) by Scholes, Robert

James Havard Thomas (1854 – 1921) James Havard Thomas 1854-1921 Born in Bristol on 22 December 1854 of Welsh parents, Havard Thomas first studied at the Bristol School of Art. He then went to London as a National Scholar at the National Art Training School in South Kensington from 1872 to 75. In Paris he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under J.P.Cavelier. After a brief period in London he lived and worked in Italy for fifteen years. After the WW1 he gained wide acclaim as a classicist. He was the first Professor of Sculpture at the Slade School where had taught from 1911. His work covered ideal works, portraits and public monuments, including one of Edmund Burke in Bristol, unveiled in 1894. We have this from Huntly Carter in : The New Age (NA 6.3:116) The present exhibition at the Carfax Gallery revives the strange story of J. Havard Thomas and the R.A. [Royal Academy]. It will be remembered that one day Mr. Thomas staggered the R.A. by flinging an original statue of Lycidas at its dense head. The R.A., true to its traditions, kicked both Harvard and his wonderful Lycidas out. Then came the New Gallery, who took Havard by the hand and obtained for his work that appreciation which good sculptors desire but seldom obtain. Now comes the Carfax, places our sculptor in the sunlight of its little select gallery, and calls forth on behalf of his clever work praise not unmixed with wonder. One wonders whether the R.A. would reject work like this. It is distinguished and exceedingly interesting, it shows originality and a strong personality; it is rather dominated by details, realistic in a sense like Donatello’s, whose treatment was, however, much broader. In particular the bas relief (Music and Dancing) is a fine achievement, and the studies for it are remarkable also. It has, however, none of the powerful originality of the Rodin group in the Gallery entrance. The Lycidas here in finely patinated bronze, is startingly thorough;–but that it should be rejected by the R.A. What was the R.A thinking about? Does it ever think? There is a (sort of) happy ending to this story, which may be gleaned from the website of the Tate Gallery: Havard Thomas trained in Paris, and lived in southern Italy for seventeen years, where he modelled this life-size nude. He regularly sent figures and relief carvings to the Royal Academy for exhibition, but there was a public scandal when ‘Lycidas’ was rejected by the Academy in 1905, and shown instead at the New Gallery. Thomas returned to London in 1906, and taught at the Slade School from 1911. A new interest in his work allowed him to have this figure cast in bronze. It was presented to the Tate Gallery by Sir Michael Sadler, a well-known collector of modern art.’Lycidas’ is the title of Milton’s poem on the drowning of a young man (1637). The old Tate Gallery catalogues describe his action as ‘A Shepherd, beholding Nymphs in a Stream’. (From the display caption January 1994) The Tate seems to have suppressed the image of the work, however, suggesting that there is something about it (erotic, perhaps?) that makes curators uneasy.

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