Nigel Frith’s great-grandfather William Silver Frith (1850-1924), a sculptor and stone and wood carver, studied at Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools in the 1860s and 1870s. From 1880 W.S. Frith was tutor of modelling at the South London Technical School of Art, a position he held until his death in 1924. In this role W.S. Frith became a major influence on the sculpture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the New Sculpture movement. W.S. Frith’s Elgin Studio in Trafalgar Square produced work for a range of buildings primarily in Oxford and Westminster, London.
In the summer of 2018 Nigel Frith gave a lecture at the Lansdowne Club in London on his great-grandfather and the New Sculpture movement. This lecture is available below.
Nigel Frith produced a leaflet to accompany his lecture in which he wrote about his his great-grandfather, the text of which is below.
W.S. Frith (1850-1924) a note by his great grandson, Nigel Frith
“William Silver Frith was the second son of the sculptor, Henry Frith, and while his father and elder brother enriched the public buildings of Gloucester, William, having trained in London, became there a leading member and chief teacher of the New Sculpture School.
As a student at the Royal Academy, he attended the lectures of its famous President, the painter, Lord Leighton, who had caused a stir with his bronze sculpture Athlete Wrestling with a Serpent, and helped to revive an art that had in Victorian times become staid.
Frith taught and co-founded the first sculpture department of any British Art School, in what is now the City and Guilds School, Kennington, which is now – as I was informed by its enthusiastic students – the only one in the country to teach the traditional study of carving and modelling from life, such as he had helped establish.
Believing in the usefulness of sculpture as an extension of architecture, Frith often worked alongside architects on the creation of public-spirited London monuments, such as Admiralty Arch on the Mall. The New Sculpture School, however, did not survive the rise of modernism, nor the decline of the Edwardian spirit which sought to make a show of British achievements, such as those of Science, Law and Government as well as Empire, and to embody these concepts, as in the Renaissance, in heroic figures in architectural settings.
Frith’s son, E.S. Frith, worked in his father’s firm on the profuse sculptures of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and also with his own son in Oxford in restoration work, such as is now taught at the City and Guilds Art School, where he was also principal up until the Second World War. The whole family are represented with their Oxford work in my mock baroque painting, The Friths Over Oxford.”
Further materials relating to William Silver Frith will be presented on this page in due course.