Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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EDWARDS , JOSEPH ( 1814 - 1882 ), sculptor ;

b. 5 March 1814 at Ynys-gau , Merthyr Tydfil , son of James Edwards , a stone-cutter . He attended a school kept by J. B. Evans , pastor of Ynys-gau chapel , and later a school kept by George Williams , and evening classes held by David Williams at Georgetown . His love of drawing , painting , and carving , showed itself at an early age, and he had already executed a headstone in Merthyr churchyard, when, at 17, he saw the collection of sculpture at Margam . Shortly afterwards he obtained work at Swansea with a statuary mason , who, recognizing his ability, made him a foreman in spite of his youth. After two years in Swansea he returned home to Merthyr to work, and in 1835 he went to London taking with him a letter of introduction to William Behnes the sculptor . Behnes employed him for some time, and in Dec. 1837 Edwards was admitted a student at the Royal Academy of Arts . In 1838 and 1839 he was awarded the Academy's silver medals for the best models from the antique. Commissions followed, and he executed a large number of allegorical works such as ‘ The Last Dream ,’ ‘ Religion consoling Justice ,’ a monument to Sir Bernard Bosanquet at Dingestow church, Mon. , and ‘ Religion ,’ which stands in Cefn cemetery near Merthyr , and which was shown at the international exhibition of 1862 , and a replica of which is at Highgate cemetery. He also, for a time, assisted the sculptor Macdowell and worked on that sculptor 's ‘ Girl Reading ,’ ‘ Girl Praying ,’ ‘ Triumph of Love ,’ and ‘ Virginius .’

Edwards undertook commissions for monuments and busts for many members of the leading South Wales families, and his work remains today in many churches and cemeteries in Wales , in Westminster Abbey , in Merthyr town hall, and elsewhere. He executed busts of members of the Beaufort , Guest , Raglan , and Crawshay families, and of such well-known Welsh people as Taliesin ap Iolo , Thomas Stephens , G. T. Clark , William Williams ( M.P. for Coventry ) , and Edith Wynne . In 1859 the widow of George Virtue , proprietor of the Art Journal , commissioned a bust of her husband and a monument to his memory. In 1880 he was asked to design the ‘ Cymmrodorion Medal .’ Between 1838 and 1878 Joseph Edwards exhibited seventy of his works at the exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts . Finding himself in straitened circumstances, he was encouraged by G. F. Watts in 1881 to apply for the Turner bequest of £50 per annum, but shortly after receiving the first instalment, Joseph Edwards d., 9 Jan. 1882 , and was buried in Highgate cemetery.


  • Wales, a National Magazine for the English speaking parts of Wales (1894–7) , ii-iii;
  • T. M. Rees , Welsh painters, engravers and sculptors, 1527–1911 (1912) ;
  • Notable Welshmen (1700–1900) (1908) ;
  • Graves , The Royal Academy of Arts (1905–6) .


Megan Ellis, (1906-2001), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959