Canada - Major-General James Wolfe of Quebec, 1910
Adding product to your cart
Height: 25cm (9.75in)
Patinated bronze. Standing figure of the Hero of Quebec, 1759. His distinctive tall, lean frame modelled in field coat and tricorne, sword in hand. Signed and dated ‘Vernon March / 1910’ to the integral base. The underside applied with a card inscribed in ‘Quebec House / Westerham / General James Wolfe / Quebec’.
In 1911 Vernon March exhibited his statuette of Major-General James Wolfe at the Royal Academy in London. It was well received and he took commissions to produce a small edition for for private collectors. The casting, finishing and patinating was probably carried out Goddendene, a large house near Farnborough, Kent where the artistic March family established sculpture studios and their own foundry.
Farnborough is situated a mere 10 miles from Westerham, the birthplace of General Wolfe, and it is probable the March’s statuette was a proposed design for the statue of Wolfe that was erected under the direction of committee chaired by Field Marshal Lord Roberts to mark the 151st anniversary of the Capture of Quebec. Lord Roberts’ committee finally settled on the established sculptor Francis Derwent Wood, R.A. (1871-1926) for the Westerham statue, over the 20 year-old March, who had nonetheless exhibited work alongside him since the age of sixteen. Both Wood and March later produced important First World War memorials, notably those to the fallen of Machine Gun Corps at Hyde Park Corner, London and the Canadian National Memorial, respectively.
Other known examples of Vernon March’s figure of Wolfe are in the National Trust Collection, Quebec House, Westerham, Kent (dated 1912); The Royal Ontario Museum (Dated 1911. Ref: 2008.23.2); and the National Gallery of Canada. Another dated 1910 was sold as Lot 93 of The Winkworth Collection: A Treasure House of Canadiana in London in April 1915.
James Wolfe (1727-1759), the conflicted son of distinguished general and a socially ambitious mother, received his first commission at fourteen. He saw extensive service in Europe during the War of the Austrian Succession, and in Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion. The Peace Treaty of 1748 halted his rapid advancement - he was a brigade major at eighteen, and lieutenant-colonel by twenty-three. The outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1756 offered Wolfe new opportunities. His part in the aborted raid on Rochefort in 1757 led Prime Minister William Pitt, the Elder, to appoint him second-in-command to Major-General Jeffrey Amherst on an expedition to capture the Fortress of Louisbourg. Following the success of the siege of Louisbourg Wolfe was made commander of the force which sailed up the Saint Lawrence River to capture Quebec City, and wrest control of Canada from the French.
Personal happiness however did not follow professional success. When he was twenty-two, his efforts to find a wife were dashed by his mother (to whom he was very close) because the girl did not command a large enough dowry. The strained relations with his mother reached breaking point shortly before Wolfe sailed to America when a second would be bride was rejected. Wolfe broke off all relations with his parents and never spoke to or saw them again.
After a rough Atlantic crossing in H.M.S. Neptune, Wolfe experienced months of frustration and ill health, and many thought the operation would fail. Then, at dawn on 13 September, Wolfe, armed with a musket, led his men in carrying out a daring plan. Using flat-bottomed landing craft, he took his 4,500 troops up the St Lawrence River and landed them south-west of the city.
They scaled the Heights of Abraham to surprise the French and draw them out of Quebec and into battle exactly where Wolfe wanted to fight. After skillfully positioning his men behind a ridge to protect them from the French batteries in Quebec, Wolfe ordered his soldiers to double-load their muskets for a devastating opening volley. In the brief fight that followed, Wolfe, right in the vanguard, was shot in the wrist, then the stomach before, still urging his men forwards, a third shot through the lung brought him down. Their fire drove the French back into the city. As he slowly drowned in his own blood, he held on long enough to learn the French were retreating and to express his relief that he had done his duty.
In January 1926, Vernon won the competition to design the National War Memorial of Canada in Ottawa. His winning design was for a memorial arch surmounted by Peace and included a large group (twenty-three figures) representing the eleven branches of the Canadian forces engaged in the First World War.
Vernon March (1891-1930) is best known as the sculptor of the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, and the Cape Town Cenotaph, South Africa. The son of a builder’s clerk, he moved from Yorkshire with his family to London at the turn of the century and decided on a career in the arts, as did seven of his eight siblings. He had his first professional success in 1907 when he became the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy with a bronze statuette of Psyche. By 1911 the March family were living and working together at Goddendene. During the First World War Vernon served briefly with the Royal Flying Corps as an Air Mechanic. In 1925 Vernon oversaw the installation of the Samuel de Champlain Monument at Orillia, Ontario that he had begun a decade earlier after winning the competition over twenty-one other entries. in April 1925 Vernon won the competition to design and build the National War Memorial of Canada. He was one of seven finalists out of a total of 127 entrants, and was awarded the commission in January 1926. His design entitled ‘The Great Response of Canada’ included 23 figures representing eleven branches of the Canadian forces engaged in the First World War. Work on the memorial began in 1926 under the auspices of Canada's Department of Public Works. However, Vernon died of pneumonia in 1930 before completing the commission. Six of his siblings, including Elsie March, finished the large figure groups by 1932. The family are said to have cast the bronzes at Goddendene. In 1937, after the memorial groups had been shown in London, they were transported to Ottawa and the memorial arch was constructed. The unveiling ceremony by George VI took place on 21 May 1939.