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King’s Royal Rifle Corps - Winchester Memorial Maquette, 1922
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King’s Royal Rifle Corps - Winchester Memorial Maquette, 1922

Measurements: Height of bronze: 26cm (10.25in)

£5750

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Bronze. Figure of a Rifleman in field service dress with Lee-Enfield rifle. Mounted on a tapering painted wood base. Signed and dated ‘J. Tweed / May 1922’ to the integral bronze base. Height including painted wood base: 39cm (15.25in).

Tweed’s Rifleman, poised as if surveying the surrounding terrain, was commissioned to commemorate the 12,824 officers and men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who fell in the Great War. The full size bronze statue stands in the historic setting of Winchester’s Cathedral Close. It was unveiled by Prince Henry (fourth son of George V) and dedicated by the by Bishop of Winchester in May 1922 in the presence of representatives of the twenty-five K.R.R.C. battalions that served in the First World War. 

John Tweed (1869-1933) was a leading sculptor of his generation and executed several prominent statues of public figures that are no longer universally admired. He was highly regarded in the execution of war memorials, with several notable examples to his name, including the Rifle Brigade Memorial (Grosvenor Gardens, London) of which reduced scale bronze figures, gifted by Tweed’s daughters, are held in The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum, Winchester. The Rifles collection similarly holds an identical bronze to the present figure which likewise was cast under the sculptor’s direction. 

Tweed was the son of a Glasgow publisher. His father’s death in 1885 necessitated his leaving school to run the family business. He studied part time at the Glasgow School of Art but in 1890 sold up and moved to London to pursue his art. He approached Hamo Thornycroft and assisted him on the frieze for the Institute of Chartered Accountants' building in Moorgate. At Thornycroft’s insistence Tweed continued his training at the Technical Art School, Lambeth, and the Royal Academy Schools. In 1893 Tweed moved to Paris with the hope of studying with Auguste Rodin, but this proved impossible as Rodin would only accept pupils who would spend four years under his tutelage. Instead Tweed briefly studied at the École des Beaux-Arts before returning to London to execute a bronze relief for Cecil Rhodes’ residence, Groote Schuur in Cape Town, in situ. The success of this commission led to further major works in Africa including a statue of Rhodes at Bulawayo. A friendship with Rhodes flourished until Rhodes criticized his sculpture and temporarily suspended payment for his commissions, only to be threatened with legal proceedings. 

In 1895 Tweed married Edith Clinton, who was secretary to the Women's Suffrage Society, and set up home at 108 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. In 1901 he was commissioned to complete the equestrian group surmounting the Wellington monument in St Paul's Cathedral, London. Tweed’s appointment provoked debate, as he was then little known and was considered suspiciously modern. The monument was eventually completed in 1912, with Tweed's reputation enhanced. Tweed is remembered for his long and close friendship with Rodin. He did much to make the diffident and awkward genius feel at ease in London society. Rodin frequently stayed at the Tweed family home in Cheyne Walk, and in 1902 he put a cottage and studio at Tweed's disposal at his residence at Meudon. Tweed also did much to promote and popularize Rodin in Britain. This culminated in an exhibition of sculpture at Grosvenor House, London, in 1914, which Rodin subsequently gifted to the nation to symbolize the comradeship of France and Britain. 

Besides Rhodes and Rodin, Tweed was on familiar terms with Edwin Lutyens, John Singer Sargent, Hilaire Belloc, and Ramsay MacDonald. As sculptor of public monuments, Tweed was both prolifc and successful. In addition to the war memorials to the King's Royal Rifle Corps at Winchester, and the Rifle Brigade in Grosvenor Place, London (1924) these include the lively and realistic portrait statues of Lord Clive in King Charles Street, Whitehall (1917) and Lord Kitchener, Horse Guards Parade (1926). Other notable commissions were monuments to Joseph Chamberlain in Westminster Abbey (1915) and Field Marshal Earl Roberts (1926) in St Paul's, Captain Cook at Whitby, Yorkshire, a marble bust of Lord Curzon of Kedleston for the Oxford Union; a statue of Sir John Moore at Shorncliffe; the equestrian statue of Sir George White, in Portland Place, and the House of Lords War Memorial comprising a figure of a youth returning a sword to a figure representing the Motherland. 

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