Albert Toft - Portrait Bust of Prime Minister Winston Churchill , 1944
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Height: 12ins (30cm)
Patinated electrotype. Head and shoulder’s portrait of the the wartime leader attired in his famous ‘Siren’ suit and wearing a knowing expression of quiet determination.
The process used to produce Toft’s wartime portrait of Churchill is electrotyping or ‘electroforming’, which was first developed in the 19th century as an economical way to manufacture large-scale objects, that otherwise would be cast in bronze. Second World War British regulations on non-essential industrial output and a paucity of raw materials thus determined Toft’s use of electrotyping by which a positive wax model of the object, or a negative mould was placed in a copper plating tank and copper was allowed to deposit itself by electro-deposition onto the surface of the objects, until it had built up to a structural thickness.
Albert Toft, F.R.B.S. (1862-1949) was an exponent of the New Sculpture movement. He was the son of the designer and pottery modeller Charles Toft, and studied at Birmingham, Hanley and Newcastle-under-Lyme Schools of Art. During this time he was also apprenticed to Wedgwood as a modeller. In 1879 he won a National Scholarship to the National Art Training Schools (now the Royal College of Art), London, where he studied for two years under Edouard Lanteri. His first success was with a figure of Lilith (1889, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery). Other major works include Spring (1897, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery); The Spirit of Contemplation (1901, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne); The Metal Pourer (Cardiff, 1913) and The Bather (1915, Chantrey Bequest, Tate Gallery).
Throughout his career he produced portrait busts including George Wallis (1890, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum); Sir George Frampton R.A. (1915); Sir Henry Irving R.A. (1919); and Sir Alfred Gilbert R.A. (1935). After the turn of the century, Toft took up commemorative public sculpture, with figures of Queen Victoria for Leamington (1902) and Nottingham (1905), several Boer War Memorials, including those in Birmingham (1905) and the Welsh National Memorial in Cardiff (1909), and, after the First World War, many more war memorials, notably the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) Memorial at Holborn Bars, an exact copy of which stands as the 41st Division Memorial at Flers in France. He sculpted the Chadderton War Memorial (1921) in Oldham and the Monument to Captain Albert Ball, VC in the grounds of Nottingham Castle. In the years 1923-24 he worked in concert with the Birmingham architects S.N. Cooke and W.N. Twist of Paradise Street and sculpted the seated bronze allegorical figures representing the Navy, Army, Air Force and Women’s Services as an integral part of the design of the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square, Birmingham.
Socially gregarious, Toft was a stalwart of the Savage Club, figuring prominently in their affairs, frequently presiding over their House Dinners. He was elected to the Art Workers Guild in 1891 and his sculptor’s manual, Modelling and Sculpture, was published in 1911. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1885 and 1947, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1938.