Joseph Wilton RA (1722 - 1803)
RA Collection: People and Organisations
Joseph Wilton was the first English sculptor to study in the great Academies of Europe and was a Founder Member of the Royal Academy.
Born in London in 1722, Wilton trained abroad in the absence of a tradition of sculpture in Britain. He studied first in France (1744–47) before moving on to Rome, where he produced casts and copies of antique statuary for English and Irish grand tourists. In 1751 he moved to Florence, where he guided grand tourists (including the young architect Robert Adam) through the great collections.
In 1755 Wilton returned to London in the company of future Academicians William Chambers and G. B. Cipriani, and secured his reputation in the late 1750s by beating several illustrious competitors in the competition to make a monument to General Wolfe in Westminster Abbey (finally unveiled in 1773). He was appointed as sculptor in ordinary to George III in 1761 and effectively became sculptor to the empire, designing major works for colonial administrations in Ireland, North America, Canada and the West Indies. Wilton was an early proponent of the neo-classical style, specialising in antique-style portrait busts often showing figures wrapped in togas.
Wilton exhibited with the Society of Artists during the 1760s before defecting to the newly-founded Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. Wilton was a crucial member of the new organisation, so much so that in Jean-François Rigaud’s triple portrait of 1782 Wilton, along with his close friend Chambers and the first President of the RA Sir Joshua Reynolds the three are depicted as the sculpture-architecture-painting triumvirate of British art. He became keeper of the RA in 1790, maintaining that position until his death in 1803. Wilton was a man of considerable means who lived the life of a gentleman and enjoyed entertaining distinguished friends such as Reynolds and Samuel Johnson. In later years he left much of the carving of his works to assistants.
Born: 16 July 1722 in London, England, United Kingdom
Died: 25 November 1803
Elected RA: 10 December 1768
Keeper from: 1790 - 1803
Librarian: 17 February 1786 - 24 September 1790
Preferred media: Sculpture
George Dance RA
Portrait of Joseph Wilton, R.A., 30 March 1793
Pencil, black and pink chalk (?) on cream wove paper
The Royal Academicians in General Assembly, 1795
Oil on canvas
Louis Francois Roubiliac
Bust of Joseph Wilton, R.A., ca. 1760
Bust of Joseph Wilton, R.A., 1928
John Hamilton Mortimer ARA
John Hamilton Mortimer, A.R.A. with Joseph Wilton, R.A., and a Student, ca. 1760-65
Oil on canvas
La Grande Galerie De Versailles, Et Les Deux Salons Qui L'Accompagnent, Peints Par Charles Le Brun premier Peintre de Louis XIV, Dessinés par Jean-Baptiste Massé Peintre & Conseiller de l'Académie Royale de Peinture & Sculpture; Et Gravés sous ses yeux par les meilleurs Maîtres du tems. - A Paris,: 
At Home - portraits of artists in the Royal Academy collection
Discourse delivered by Joseph Wilton at the Royal Academy premiums
10 Dec 1799
Autobiography of Joseph Wilton, sculptor
Card of admission to be a student of the Royal Academy
23 Oct 1800