William Shirreffs

Carver

William Shirreffs (1846–1902) was a sculptor in stone and metal. He was born to a family of farm labourers and carters in Huntly, Aberdeenshire. By 1871 he was a student at the Glasgow School of Art, describing himself in the census of that year as 'stone carver, unemployed'. 1 However, he soon won the Queen's Prize at the annual National Exhibition of art-school student work and a free scholarship, and was taught by prominent Glasgow sculptor William Mossman. 2

Shirreffs opened a studio in 1876–7, and was briefly involved in modellers Paul & Shirreffs, with his brother, Charles, a plasterer. 3 William advertised as an 'architectural sculptor, modeller and plasterer', and in 1885 as additionally carrying out 'electric art metal works'. 4 Charles (c. 1857–1913) turned to bronze-founding around 1904. 5

Shirreffs frequently collaborated with leading architect J. J. Burnet, producing sculptures for banks at 177 Ingram Street and 96 Glassford Street (1894–9), and 'Donatello-esque' copper reliefs for Burnet's own home (1888). 6 He also contributed character studies to Edinburgh's Scott Monument, and worked with sculptor Sir George Frampton on the exterior carvings for Kelvingrove Art Gallery (1898–1900). 7

Shirreffs exhibited frequently, showing portraits of a Dr J. S. Moore ('a conquering nose'); 'Une Grande Dame' ('of queenly air'); and actor J. L. Toole, about which a critic commented, Sir Henry Irving 'will find it interesting ... Shirreffs is a clever artist'. 8 The 1894 removal sale at Shirreffs’s studio illustrated the range of his activities: 'artistic bronzes ... friezes in electro copper, original work in terracotta, stucco friezes, cornices ... casts; small gas engine, Siemens dynamo, buffing lathe'. 9

Notes:

1: Birth, death and census information, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 15 August 2012]; Glasgow Herald, 24 June 1902, p. 1.

2: Ray McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002, p. 498.

3: Edinburgh Gazette, 30 August 1878, p. 668; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1879–80, p. 446.

4: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1885–6, p. 547;

5: Glasgow Post Office Directories, 1903–1912.

6: Gary Nisbet, 'William Shirreffs (1846–1902): Brief Biography', Glasgow – City of Sculpture Website, 2001–12, www.glasgowsculpture.com [accessed 28 August 2012]; Ray McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002, p. 498.

7: City of Edinburgh Council, 'The Character Statues: Gurth', The Scott Monument Website, www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk [accessed 28 August 2012]; Gary Nisbet, 'William Shirreffs (1846–1902): Brief Biography', Glasgow – City of Sculpture Website, 2001–12, www.glasgowsculpture.com [accessed 28 August 2012]; Ray McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002, p. 498.

8: Glasgow Herald, 18 March 1893, p. 4 (Dr Moore); 19 April 1894, p. 8 ('Grande Dame'); Letter, T. A. Gentles, May 1895, Repository: THM (Reference: THM/208/190) Ref.No: 3353, Henry Irving 1838–1905 Correspondence, Henry Irving Foundation Centenary Project, 2012, www.henryirving.co.uk/index.php [accessed 15 August 2012].

9: Glasgow Herald, 25 April 1894, p. 12.