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Joseph Wilton

From Academic Kids

Sir Joseph Wilton (16 July 17221803) was an English sculptor and one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768 (and the Academy's third keeper).

Born to a wealthy family in London, Wilton trained in Flanders, Paris, Rome and Florence. Like many other artists of the day, he studied antiquities, and made numerous plaster casts and marble copies of classic works – many of these later formed the collection of Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond at Richmond House in west London.

While in Florence, Wilton also made the acquaintance of Florentine painter Giovanni Battista Cipriani, who accompanied Wilton on his return to England in August 1755.

Once back in London, Wilton was named co-director of Lennox's Richmond House gallery, and established a workshop. This employed many assistants and it is said that Wilton often delegated completion of many works attributed to him to those assistants.

In 1761, he was first commissioned to produce a statue of King George III. Similar commissions followed, including one in 1766 from New York City. This massive statue portrayed the king on horseback in Roman garb, and was cast in lead and gilded before being shipped to America and erected at Bowling Green, near the tip of Manhattan in August 1770. It did not last long, being torn down by patriots in July 1776.

Wilton's other works include many notable busts (eg: Oliver Cromwell), monuments (eg: James Wolfe's and Stephen Hales' memorials in Westminster Abbey, London) and other carvings including fireplaces and tables; he also designed the coach used for George III's coronation.

In 1768, when Wilton was perhaps at the peak of his powers, he was elected a founder member of the Royal Academy. However, that year also saw him inherit his father's fortune and the new wealth diverted him away from sculpture to a life of dissolution. In 1786 he was declared bankrupt. He died in 1803 and was buried at Wanstead Church in east London.

By some accounts, the town of Wilton, New Hampshire is said to have been named after Sir Joseph in 1762.

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