Sir John Alexander Macdonald (1815-1891) Prime Minister of Canada 1867-73, 1878-91

  • About the work
    Country: Canada
    City: Ottawa
    Place: British High Commission

    Interpretation about this artwork is under review

    The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.

    Canada-based sculptor Hamilton Plantagenet MacCarthy took the death-mask of Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Alexander Macdonald in 1891. Using the mask he produced a clay bust, from which this plaster version was later cast.

    Soon afterwards, MacCarthy was commissioned to produce a bronze, life-size statue of Macdonald, which was erected in front of the Ontario Legislative Building in Queen’s Park, Toronto. It was unveiled on 13 October 1894 by the then Prime Minister, Sir John Thompson.

    A marble bust of Macdonald, sculpted by British sculptor George Edward Wade (1853-1933), was installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1892. Wade’s bust of the Glasgow-born leader stands on a granite base, which is inscribed:

    ‘A British subject I was born,

    A British subject I will die.’

    MacCarthy’s plaster bust of Macdonald was presented to Earnscliffe in Ottawa, the former home of Macdonald, by public servant Howard Willard Warner (1908-1989) of Ottawa, in 1976. Earnscliffe is now the British High Commission building in Canada.

  • About the artist
    Hamilton Plantagenet MacCarthy was born in England; the son of sculptor Hamilton Wright MacCarthy. His mother was Canadian. He trained under his father; at the St Marylebone School; and in Antwerp. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, from 1875 to 1884. Aged 39 he left London for Toronto, eventually settling in Ottawa. He was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1889. MacCarthy is best-known for portrait busts, including those of the first Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair and Sir John Alexander Macdonald; and also for public monuments, including the ‘Boer War Monument’ (Nova Scotia, 1900) and ‘Samuel de Champlain with Astrolabe’ (Ottawa, 1915). His 15 children include Coeur de Lion MacCarthy (1881-1979), also a sculptor.
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  • Details
    Sir John Alexander Macdonald (1815-1891) Prime Minister of Canada 1867-73, 1878-91
    Plaster bust
    Presented by Howard Warner, January 1976
    Collection of public servant Howard Willard Warner (1908-1989) of Ottawa; by whom presented to Earnscliffe, the residence of the British High Commissioner to Canada (and former home of the sitter), in January 1976
    GAC number