Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
William Birnie Rhind
(1853-1933)
A Prolific Edinburgh born sculptor, Birnie Rhind is best known for his Boer War Memorials in Edinburgh, such as the Royal Scots Greys (1905), the Black Watch (1908) and the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (1919), but was principally an architectural sculptor, with most of his important work also in Edinburgh.

The eldest son of John Rhind , with whom he trained before attending the School of Design and RSA , he established a studio in Glasgow at 217 West George Street, 1885-7, with his sculptor brother J Massey Rhind, then settled permanently in Edinburgh where he produced sculpture for the SNPG (1898); The Scotsman Building (1900); the Professional & Civil Service Supply Association, George Street (1903-7) and Jenners, Princes Street (1893-1903).

A little known Edinburgh work was the seated, bronze statue of James Walker, Chairman of the North British Railway Company, which won a competition against other Scottish sculptors in 1896. The statue was originally placed in a niche in Waverley Station then later moved to Glasgow's Transport Museum.

Outwith Scotland he executed sculpture on Wakefield County Council Offices (1897), Liverpool Cotton Exchange (1905-6) and Winnipeg Parliament Building, Canada (1916-19).

His public work includes statues to William Johnston, St. Anne's (1888); Sir Peter Coats and Thomas Coats, Paisley (1893-8); the Boer War Memorial at Alloa (1904), and the equestrian Marquis of Linlithgow, Melbourne, Australia (1908).

In Glasgow, he executed architectural sculpture which was grealy influenced by Michelangelo in style and subject, and one public monument.

These include the allegorical figures on Charing Cross Mansions (1889-91); Cumming & Smith's Furniture Warehouse, 128-52 Sauchiehall Street (1891-2); the sculpture on the former Sun Life Building, 117-21 West George Street (1889-94); the statue representing Science on Kelvingrove Art Gallery (1898); the figures and heraldic panel on the former National Bank of Scotland, 2-4 Glassford Street (1902-3); and the HLI Memorial, Kelvingrove Park (1906).

The model for the latter was Peter Tainsh-Hardie, an assistant in Rhind's studio, who also posed for the Black Watch Statue on The Mound, Edinburgh (Scots Magazine [Letters], January, 1987, p. 398).

Tainsh-Hardie was identified as the model by his son, also Peter Tainsh-Hardie, the author of the above letter, who gave a unique insight into Rhind's personality and practice:

"[Birnie Rhind] was a hard task master to work for and rather tight-fisted with money. He would not, for instance, employ a model when he had a studio full of his own craftsmen", hence the models' employment for this and his other military memorials.

The correspondent was also used as a model for part of the sculpture scheme on the Government Buildings in Ottawa, when, as a child, he posed as a naked putto leaning on the lap of a seated female model.

Another insight into the sculptor's personality was given by J P Macgillivray who described him as "a pig of the most obtuse kind".

Birnie Rhind’s 2.29m high, seated statue of Science on Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was inspired by a painting of Archimedes by Niccolo Barabino (1831-91), and was carved in red Locharbriggs stone.

Incorporating most of the elements from Barabino’s composition, including a globe and dinosaur skull, the plaster model also included a standing, naked boy at Archimedes’ left side. However, the boy was omitted from the executed work on the suggestion of Sir George Frampton , the building's Master Sculptor.

A much reduced copy of Science (35 cm) was cast in bronze and is now in the collection of The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh.

The sculptor revisited the theme of Science again for his figures representing the Personification of Science on the Armstrong Building, Newcastle (1906), and the Allegory of Learning on Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead (1917).

He exhibited regularly at RSA , 1878-1934, showing portrait busts and models for many of his public and architectural sculptures, and at RGIFA , 1888-1908, and RA , 1898-1904.

He was elected an ARSA , 1893, and RSA , 1905.

Birnie Rhind is buried in his family grave in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh, which is marked with a monument bearing a double portrait medallion of his father and mother, whose maiden name, Birnie, was given to him as his middle name.

The monument was produced by his brother, J.M. Rhind.


Sources:

  • AA [Royal Scots Memorial], 1904 (2), p. 32;
  • AA [Alloa], 1904 ii, p.32;
  • BJ [James Walker], Vol 4, 4 November, 1896, p. 202;
  • GH [Obit], 11 July, 1933;
  • Cavanagh ;
  • Laperriere , Vol 4;
  • McEwan ;
  • Gray ;
  • The Scots Magazine, The Story Behind The Statue, Vol 126, no. 1, October, 1986, pp. 66-7;
  • The Scots Magazine (Letters), Stories Behind The Statues, Vol 126, no. 4, January, 1987, p. 398.
 
Works in our Database:
1: Kelvingrove Park (West End),
Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum - South Elevation. On attic of west pavilion, south elevation
Seated Male Figure Symbolising Science (1892-1902)
Sculptor: WB Rhind; Architects: JW Simpson & EJ Milner Allen
#201 2: Kelvingrove Park (West End),
Kelvingrove Park,
At the eastern end of Prince of Wales Bridge
Highland Light Infantry Memorial (1906)
Sculptor: WB Rhind
3: Renfield Street (City Centre),
1-11 Renfield Street / 60-70 Gordon Street
Allegorical Female Figures, Quadriga, Putti and Related Decorative Carving (1896-9)
Sculptor: WB Rhind; Architect: JJ Burnet
4: Renfield Street (City Centre),
38-42 Renfield Street / 117-21 West George Street
Aurora, Apollo, Allegorical Figures of Night and Morning and Related Decorative Carving (1892-4)
Sculptor: WB Rhind; Architect: W Leiper
5: Sauchiehall Street (City Centre),
Former Cumming & Smith Warehouse, (now the Savoy Centre),
128-52 Sauchiehall Street
Ten Allegorical Figures and Associated Carvings (1892-4)
Sculptor: WB Rhind; Architects: H&D Barclay
#265 6: Sauchiehall Street (Charing Cross),
Charing Cross Mansions,
540-6 Sauchiehall Street / 2-30 St George's Road
Figurative Programme (1889-91)
Sculptor: WB Rhind; Architect: JJ Burnet
#283 7: St George's Road (Woodlands),
Former Church of St George's in the Fields, 485 St George's Road
Christ Feeding the Multitude (1885-6)
Sculptor: WB Rhind,
Architects: H&D Barclay
8: Trongate (Merchant City),
Former National Bank of Scotland, 190 Trongate
Seated Male and Female Attic Figures and Associated Decorative Carving (1901-3)
Sculptor: WB Rhind; Architect: TP Marwick; Masons: Alexander Muir & Sons
 
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