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
The eldest son of
, 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
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
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
, 1888-1908, and RA
He was elected an ARSA
, 1893, and RSA
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.
[Royal Scots Memorial], 1904 (2), p. 32;
[Alloa], 1904 ii, p.32;
[James Walker], Vol 4, 4 November, 1896, p. 202;
[Obit], 11 July, 1933;
, Vol 4;
- 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.