BANKS, Thomas
(b. 1735, London, d. 1805, London)


English sculptor. He studied in Rome 1772-79 and in 1781 was employed by Catherine the Great in Russia. Back in England, he became with Flaxman the leader of the Neoclassical movement in sculpture. He developed a particular interest in ancient sarcophagi, and his relief of the Death of Germanicus of 1774 (Earl of Leicester, Holkman Hall, Norfolk) was probably among the first sculptures produced by an English sculptor in a Neoclassical mode.

He had a very high reputation with his contemporaries: Reynolds called him 'the first British sculptor who has produced works of classic grace' and Queen Charlotte (queen consort of George III) is said to have wept when she saw his most famous work, the monument to Penelope, Boothby (Ashbourne Church, Derbyshire, 1793), in which the child is shown sleeping rather than dead. Small monuments such as this show Banks at his best, and his few surviving portrait busts demonstrate a gift for characterization. His larger monuments, however, are somewhat ponderous.