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Felix Martin Miller - Sculptor

Felix Martin Miller 1819 - 1908

Felix Martin Miller was born in Verdun, France on 8th February 1819. His father was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy who had seen action in the Napoleonic Wars. The family moved back to England and Felix was baptised in Folkestone on 11th September 1822. After his father died in 1827 Felix was sent to the London Orphan Asylum in Clapton, which had been established in 1813 with the object of advancing the education of boys and girls who had lost one or both parents. His mother was described as an invalid with 2 children. Felix remained there until 1833.

By 1841, aged 20 he had gained an apprenticeship with a sculptor, possibly Henry Weekes who had a studio in Pimlico. In 1842 he was enrolled in the Royal Academy of Arts on Henry Weekes’ recommendation. His sculpting style was bas-relief, a sculptural technique in which the design is only slightly raised above the flattened surface At the exhibition of suggested works of art for the Houses of Parliament in 1845, he showed The Dying Briton and The Orphans, the latter group being later carved in marble and gifted by Miller to the London Orphan Asylum on the death of its founder, Dr Reed in 1864. It had earlier been on show at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Miller exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1842 – 1880 and at the British Institution from 1847 – 1866. One of his most well known works was Emily and the White Doe of Rylstone which illustrates a poem by Wordsworth.

At the Great Exhibition of 1851, a time when Felix was living with his mother in Bloomfield Terrace, Hanover Square, London, he exhibited bas reliefs of Titania, The Spirit of Calm and Lycidas.

He was a prolific and admired sculptor throughout much of the Victorian era. More than 100 pieces by him were seen at the galleries from 1842 to the end of the century, many works of imagination drawn from literature.

The sculptor John Henry Foley RA, who was a friend of Miller thought very highly of his work and commissioned some in marble, including Titania Asleep in 1853.

He also carved busts of famous people. His busts of David Livingstone (1856) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1862) are at the V&A museum. T he Parian Ware bisque porcelain bust of Queen Alexander, made in 1863 is part of the Government Art Collection.

In 1857 Miller married Julia Caroline Sarah Hunt, and their only child, Dora was born in 1860.

From 1859 to 1891 he taught modelling at the National Art School in South Kensington and modelled for Copeland and Minton

The Art Journal of 1874 wrote that Miller was ‘one of the few sculptors whose genius is manifest and who has produced works, chiefly bas-reliefs, that are unsurpassed by any productions of their class in modern art. It is his evil fortune to obtain much praise with little success or substantial recompense’

By 1897 Felix, his wife and daughter had moved to Tunbridge Wells, where he remained until his death in 1908 when they lived at 17 Somerset Road, St John’s. He is buried in Section B13 182 with his wife and unmarried daughter. The memorial is a simple cross, so different to the fanciful sculptures he was known for.

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