John Cheere (1709 – 1787)

John Cheere’s journey from a haberdasher’s apprentice to a renowned sculptor underscores the profound shift in his career path, ultimately leading him to become a significant figure in the 18th-century English sculpture scene. His partnership with his brother and the acquisition of John Nost’s sculpture yard in 1739 marked the beginning of Cheere’s prominent career in creating lead statues, which became emblematic of the period’s garden aesthetics.

Innovations in Garden Sculpture:
John Cheere’s work primarily focused on lead statues for the gardens of the aristocracy, blending classical inspirations with pastoral themes. His ability to produce a wide range of figures, from reproductions of ancient sculptures to original works embodying simple, idyllic themes, demonstrated his versatility and creativity. The commission of 98 lead statues for the royal palace of Queluz in Portugal highlights the international recognition of his talent.

Restoration and Recognition:
The restoration of Cheere’s works, including the significant collection destined for Queluz, by Rupert Harris Conservation and their subsequent return to Portugal in 2009, exemplifies the enduring value and appreciation of his sculptures. This endeavor, supported by the World Monuments Fund Britain, underscores the historical and artistic significance of Cheere’s contributions to sculpture.

Attributed Works and Contributions:
Among Cheere’s attributed works, the Medici lions at Stowe House stand out as iconic examples of his craftsmanship. Furthermore, his diverse portfolio, including the restoration of a Shakespeare statue and the creation of various busts and figures for esteemed locations across Britain, showcases his prolific output and the wide range of his sculptural prowess.

Enduring Legacy:
John Cheere’s death in 1787 marked the end of an era, but his artistic legacy continues to influence the appreciation of garden sculpture and the decorative arts. Buried in Clapham alongside his first wife, Cheere’s creations, from lead statues enhancing historic gardens to plaster busts and chimneypieces, remain treasured artifacts of 18th-century artistry.

Specific Works Highlighting Cheere’s Artistry:
– The gilded equestrian statue of William III and the lead statue of George II are notable examples of his work in public commemoration.
– His contributions to private estates, such as the numerous figures for Stourhead’s grottoes and gardens, reflect the integration of sculpture into landscape design.
– The lead statue of Shakespeare for Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall, commissioned by David Garrick, emphasizes Cheere’s role in the cultural commemorations of his time.

John Cheere’s contributions to 18th-century sculpture, particularly in the realm of garden statuary, continue to captivate and inspire. His work not only beautified the landscapes of his era but also left a lasting impact on the tradition of English sculpture, bridging classical inspirations with the burgeoning aesthetic preferences of his time.


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