Programme: Sculpture

Year: 1918

Phyllis Mary Bone (1894 – 1972)

Sculptor and Edinburgh College of Art graduate who left her mark on Ashworth Laboratories at King’s Buildings.

Phyllis Mary Bone was born on 15 February 1894 in Hornby, Lancashire. She was educated at St George's High School in Edinburgh and then, from 1912 to 1918, at Edinburgh College of Art. She trained at ECA as a sculptor under Alexander Carrick, Head of Sculpture and one of Scotland's leading monumental sculptors of the early 20th century.

During this period she also travelled to Paris under a travel scholarship to train as an animal sculptor under Edouard Navellier.

Animal magic

After returning to Edinburgh she established herself and gained fame as a sculptor of animal subjects; working initially within the Holyrood Pottery, run by Scottish artist Henry Taylor Wyse, and then independently.

Much of her work was comprised of small statuettes including, in 1930, a bronze of Rudyard Kipling’s Shere Khan the tiger which forms part of ‘Modern Scottish Women | Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965’ a 2016 exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (until 26th June 2016).

Elephant roundel on Ashworth Laboratories. Photo by Stephen C Dickson CC BY-SA 4.0.
Photo by Stephen C Dickson CC BY-SA 4.0
Elephant roundel on Ashworth Laboratories
Shere Khan the Tiger. RSA Diploma Collection © Crown copyright.
RSA Diploma Collection © Crown copyright
Shere Khan the Tiger

A civic legacy

As well as the statuettes, she also received several substantial commissions for architectural works in Edinburgh including the Scottish National War Memorial and the Ashworth Laboratories at Edinburgh University.

On the Scottish National War Memorial Phyllis commemorates the birds and animals used by the armed forces during the First World War in in a series of animal and heraldic carvings. These are the lion and the unicorn at the entrance of the memorial and the series of roundels inside the memorial.

At Ashworth Laboratories, built in the late 1920s to house the University's Department of Zoology, Phyllis created a series of seventeen roundels containing reliefs of invertebrates and animals representing the principal zoogeographical regions.

The architect, Robert Lorimer and her former teacher Alexander Carrick were among her collaborators on these projects.

South facing

Originally sharing studios with the Scottish Colourists at the Albert Gallery on Shandwick Place, she moved to Dean Studios in Dean Village in 1935. It remained her base for the next fifteen years before she slowly decamped to the south west of Scotland - firstly taking a second home in Newton Stewart before, in 1950, leaving Edinburgh permanently for an artists’ colony on the Solway Firth.

Despite a widespread belief that sculpture was unsuitable for women, recognition of Scottish women artists grew during the 1930s and, in 1944 Phyllis Mary Bone, was the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Scottish Academy.

She died in Dumfries Hospital in 1972 and was buried in Kirkcudbright. Her portrait by Robert Sivell is held in the Gracefield Collection in Dumfries.

This article was first published on Mar 30, 2016 on The University of Edinburgh alumni site