Former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is represented here wearing a bow tie and with his trademark beard and small moustache. Beneath his thick eyebrows, his eyes look to his right with a somewhat troubled expression.
As no other version is known, this bust by sculptor John Adams-Acton may well be the work referred to in ‘The Era’ newspaper, in July 1883. It was then reported that the sculptor was ‘engaged in finishing three busts, those of Beaconsfield, Gladstone, and President Garfield, which are to be placed side by side, strange to say, in the great hall at Chicago.’ The busts were presumably sent to Chicago for exhibition. Unless there was another version, this bust of Disraeli returned to London in time for Adams-Acton to exhibit it at the Royal Academy in London, in 1885. It was later recorded as being on display in the artist’s studio, in March 1894.
John Adams-Acton was born in Middlesex, the son of artist William Adams. He added Acton to his surname to avoid confusion with other artists named John Adams. He trained under Timothy Butler and Matthew Noble. In 1853, he entered the Royal Academy Schools, winning the Academy’s travelling studentship in 1858 and relocating to Rome. Acton remained in Rome until 1865 and there met John Gibson. In 1875 he married Marion Hamilton, a novelist who wrote under the name Jeanie Hering. After spending eight months in India, the couple settled in London. They had five children and lived on Marylebone Road from 1880, before building a house and studio in St John’s Wood. Acton died at the age of 79, at the family’s holiday home on the Isle of Arran.
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