Born 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 December 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, Monmouth, 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 died, 9 January 1882, and was buried in Highgate cemetery.
Published date: 1959
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