Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
William Mossman III
(1843-77)
Glasgow born sculptor. The son of John Mossman , and known as 'Billy', he trained with his father and worked in the family firm, J & G Mossman , assisting in the production of their architectural and monumental sculpture.

He executed a marble bust of William Shakespeare (1864) which was listed in the catalogue for an Exhibition of a Century of Art in Glasgow 1835-1935, held in the city in 1935. The bust is now in the collection of GMAG .

Towards the end of 1870, he moved to the USA in search of work, spending four winters in the country.

During this time he sailed the full length of the Hudson River, through Long Island Sound, up the Connecticut River, crossed the Delaware, and visited cities in New England and the 'Middle States'.

Returning to Boston, where he stayed with the sculptor J Holmes at 6 Orange Street, he wrote to his cousin Willie (son of George Mossman ) on 7 September 1874, stating that he had returned to the city after two years and that as business had been bad he had only worked for 25 months out of the 37 that he had been in America.

Of his work there he noted that he had been involved in 'fixing two old lions that had watched faithfully for fifty years at the doorway of an old bank in Hartford, Connecticut', and that he 'had just finished the carving of four figures seven feet high in Nova Scotia stone', as well as 'getting up a lot of models of capitals, spandrils [and] cornices, to be cut in marble'.

He enclosed a now lost stereoscopic view of himself fixing the lions at the bank in Hartford, and described himself as being five feet seven inches tall, and weighing 136 pounds.

The lions were outside the Phoenix Bank at 803 Main Street, and dated from 1827. Mossman worked on them after they had been removed from the building's attic prior to its demolition and the construction of the bank's new building in 1872-3, and were placed on the ground at the north and south ends of the building.

The whereabouts of the stereoscopic view of Mossman and the lions is not known. However, an image of one of the lions is reproduced in the online catalogue of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/pphome.html.

The lions are now outside Hartford's Municipal Building (City Hall), and it is said that at the stroke of midnight at New Year, the lions jump up and change places.

Returning to Scotland, c. 1875, Mossman died on 30 January 1877, aged 33; his death being recorded as 'Phthisis Pulmonalis, 18 months, Albuminaria, 6 months, and Uraemic Convultions, 1 day'. His death was registered by his father, and he was buried in Sighthill Cemetery beside his mother, Helen Bredie.

His monument there is a plain slab of pink granite on a Caithness granite base, which was purchased by his father from the family firm on 28 June 1877, at a cost of 25.1s.1d. (John Mossman was buried in the lair in September 1890).

Drawings of William Mossman at work and asleep in a chair, by his uncle, George Mossman, together with drawings of his bust of Shakespeare and a sketch of a three-quarter length Classical woman (c. 1869), are in the collection of the University of Glasgow Library (Special Collections).

Sources:

  • Gildard ;
  • Stoddart;
  • Exhibition Of A Century Of Art In Glasgow 1835-1935 (exhibition catologue, May-June 1935);
  • Glasgow University Library, MSGen 551/38: Mossman family letters;
  • J & G Mossman Day Book (William Mossman III gravestone), 28 June, 1877, p. 165;
  • Lions: http://www.hartfordinfo.org/issues/documents/government/htfd_courant_042405.asp;
  • Hartford Courant: Wilson H Faude, How The Lions Came to City Hall, 24 April, 2005:
  • Library of Congress: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/pphome.html;
  • Information from Caroline Gerard, email to Gary Nisbet, 12 January 2009;
  • Death Record (William Mossman), Kelvin, Glasgow, 644/9 82;

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