This month has seen the return of the portrait bust of Elizabeth Gaskell by the artist William Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925) to the Rylands Library from her sojourn at the Gaskell House. She has been installed on the landing outside the Elsevier Reading Room and will be on public display at the library for the first time.
The bust is actually a copy of an earlier sculpture by Scottish artist David Dunbar (1792-1866) and was produced prior to Elizabeth Gaskell’s marriage to Rev.William Gaskell in August 1832.
At the time of Thornycroft’s commission in the 1890s he was recognised as one of Britain’s leading sculptors. He was known as a pioneer of the New Sculpture Movement alongside Albert Gilberts (1854-1934) and George Frampton (1869-1928). In 1888 he was elected to full membership of the Royal Academy and was knighted in 1917. In addition to this sculpture the Library holds an important cache of Thornycroft’s letters amongst the papers of M.H. Spielmann (1858-1948).
The bust of Mrs Gaskell is seen looking into the Elsevier Reading Room, where she will hopefully provide a link between the collections that the library holds and the reading room where access to these incredible collections can be gained. The Library is home to a large collection of Mrs Gaskell’s works, including autographed manuscripts of the novel Wives and Daughters and her Life of Charlotte Brönte, as well an extensive collection of correspondence and a selection of her personal artefacts.
For details of how to use the Reading Room please use the link.