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Mr Thomas Woolner

Who was Thomas Woolner?

Thomas Woolner (17 December 1825 – 7 October 1892) was a prominent 19th-century English sculptor and one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists committed to a renewed and more sincere approach to art. Born in Hadleigh, Suffolk, Woolner's artistic talents manifested early in life, and he began his formal training at the Royal Academy Schools in London in 1842.

Life & Work

Woolner's association with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood began in the mid-1850s when he became friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other members of the group. His sculpture "The Death of Chatterton" (1856), inspired by the tragic suicide of the 18th-century poet Thomas Chatterton, gained attention and established him as a notable sculptor within the movement.

In addition to his contributions to the visual arts, Woolner was an accomplished poet. His poetry often reflected his deep connection to nature and his exploration of the human experience. Some of his notable works include "My Beautiful Lady" and "Pygmalion," showcasing his ability to blend classical themes with a romantic sensibility.

Woolner's career was not without challenges, and he faced financial difficulties throughout his life. Despite this, he continued to produce significant sculptures, including portraits of notable figures like Alfred Lord Tennyson and Thomas Carlyle. His works were characterized by a meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to the principles of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

In 1867, Woolner made a significant career move by emigrating to Australia, seeking new opportunities. He became involved in various artistic and business ventures, including gold prospecting and portrait sculpture. Woolner's time in Australia allowed him to contribute to the cultural development of the region and left a lasting impact on the art scene.

Thomas Woolner returned to England in 1874, where he continued his artistic pursuits and exhibited at the Royal Academy. Despite facing ongoing financial challenges, he remained dedicated to his craft until his death on October 7, 1892, in London. His legacy lives on through his contributions to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the art world as a whole. His sculptures and poetry continue to be studied and appreciated, showcasing the enduring influence of his work.


Stevens, T, ‘Woolner, Thomas (1825–1892)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006) [, accessed 7 Sept 2007]

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