Other names: William and Thomas Wills, W.J. & T. Wills
Active: 1857 - 1895
Function: Modeller, sculptor
History or description: William John (born c.1826 in Islington, London) and Thomas Wills (born c.1835 and died c.1896 in St. Pancras, London) were the brothers forming the Wills Brothers firm of modellers and sculptors.
From about 1857 William John and Thomas worked together and exhibited jointly at the Royal Academy until 1884. The success of their business was based on designing and modelling drinking fountains, many for the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, and an association with the Coalbrookdale Company, iron manufacturers. Some of their fountains were modelled under the artistic supervision of the sculptors John Bell and William Theed (Ward-Jackson (2003) pp. 484-5).
The Wills Brothers also executed a number of statues including: a figure of Richard Cobden for Camden Town (1866-68); Sir Humphrey Davy in Penzance (1872); Lord Mayo at Cockermouth (1875); G.L. Ashworth at Rochdale (1877); Sir Thomas White at Coventry (1883); Henry Edwards at Weymouth (1886); and William III for New Quay, Torbay (1889).
Further information about the brothers is provided in the personal records for Thomas and William John Wills. There is a photograph of a drinking fountain in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, attributed to the Wills brothers here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/93569388@N08/9680964104/in/pool-2247567@N24/ (accessed 15 December 2013)
Dates are usually the year a work was exhibited so may differ from date of production.
New entries have been made each time a work was exhibited due to a lack of evidence about the state, medium or edition shown.
Created Cupid afloat
Designed The Milton Vase
However Graves (1905-6) attributes this exclusively to William John Wills
Exhibitions, Courses, Meetings and other Events
Exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts (Summer Exhibition), 1768-
1857 - 1860
Exhibited 3 times, usually one work. The brothers also showed jointly as 'W. and T. Wills' in 1863, 1866 and 1884.
Institutional and Business Connections
Worked with Coalbrookdale Co. Limited
1857 (Circa) - 1865 (Circa)
A number of works by the Wills Brothers were cast by the Coalbrookdale Company including the drinking fountains the brothers designed for the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association
Advisors included William Theed
Theed advised the Wills brothers on the modelling of drinking fountains for the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association
Advisors included John Bell
Bells advised the Wills brothers on the modelling of drinking fountains for the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association
Partners included William John Wills
1857 (Circa) - 1895 (Circa)
Partners included Thomas Wills
1857 (Circa) - 1895 (Circa)
Descriptions of Business or Institution
Listed in Post Office London Directory, 1860 Post Office/Kelly London Directories
p.1717 Listed as 'Modeller;' 'Sculptor'
Listed under sculptor Post Office London Directory, 1890 Post Office/Kelly London Directories
Listed under sculptor Post Office London Directory, 1895 Post Office/Kelly London Directories
Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester Public Sculpture of Britain
p. 465 and multiple references
Public Sculpture of the City of London Public Sculpture of Britain Volume Five
pp. 145-6, 283-6 and 485-6 (on pp. 283-6 there is a full description of the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association)
Public Sculpture of Warwick, Coventry and Solihull Public Sculpture of Britain
pp. 156 and 273
The Royal Academy of Arts: a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904. Vol. 8: Toft to Zwecker
p. 302 entries under Wills Brothers, W and T Wills and J.W. Wills
Citing this record
'Wills Brothers', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/organization.php?id=msib1_1233008382, accessed 23 Apr 2017]