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Thomas Banks

Born: London, 22 December 1735
Died: London, 2 October 1810
Nationality: English

eldest son of William Banks, steward to the 4th Duke of Beaufort


Apprenticed to William Barlow, a mason and ornament carver; studio of Peter Scheemakers; life classes at St Martin’s Lane Academy.


1763 – awarded medal by the Society of Arts for Death of Epaminondas (untraced).

1769 – employed as assistant to Richard Hayward; exhibits at the Free Society of Artists

1770 – exhibits at Royal Academy, wins Gold Medal with Rape of Proserpine (untraced); first sculptor to be awarded RA’s stipend to Rome

1772 – travels to Rome; meets Heinrich Fuseli

1781 – exhibits Cupid at RA; travels to St Petersburg, sells Cupid to Catherine the Great, who commissions a statue of herself and a bas (low) relief titled Armed Neutrality (untraced)

1782 – begins focusing on commissioned monuments

1785 – RA full member (sculptor) with Falling Titan

-admired by Joshua Reynolds and John Flaxman

Commissions from: 

Catherine the Great; the East India Company

Important Artworks: 

Achilles Arming, 1770s (Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

Cupid, 1770s (Pavlovsk Palace, St Petersburg)

Sir Eyre Coote, 1789 (Westminster Abbey, London)

Captain Richard Burgess, 1802 (St Paul’s Cathedral, London) 

Captain Westcott, 1802-05 (St Paul’s Cathedral)



Banks was a politically engaged artist:

"Radical ideas were spread by corresponding societies. The Society for Constitutional Information, for example, of which Banks was a member, was founded in 1780 and revived in 1791 in response to the revolutions in America and France. Calling for parliamentary reforms, manhood suffrage, and annual parliaments, it circulated [Thomas] Paine's books. The Society's goals are summed up in a Declaration of Rights dated June 1782, which was written and illustrated by the artist Thomas Stothard. It notes, for example: 'Nine tenths of the English nation are at this day totally debarred from their birthright of voting for members of parliament...and the remaining tenth part are also debarred six years of every seven...the people of England are constantly taxed without being represented, and compelled to obey laws to which they never gave assent. Are not these the very definitions of slavery?!'

Julius Bryant, "The Royal Academy's 'violent democrat' Thomas Banks," The British Art Journal, vol. VI, no. 3 (Winter 2005): 51.