Born 1825 (Circa)
Died 17 October 1869
Active: 1843 - 1864
Country of birth and death: England
Born c.1825 in Fulham, London. He was the son of John Hancock (1788–1835), an inventor and rubber manufacturer. After his father's death in 1835 John and his eight siblings were raised in Stoke Newington by their uncle and guardian, Thomas Hancock (1786–1865), manufacturer and inventor who discovered the process of the vulcanization of rubber.
When John Hancock was seventeen, he entered the Royal Academy Schools and studied there for at least two years (1842-c.1844). His uncle, Charles Hancock (1800–1877), who was an animal painter and inventor, may have encouraged him to pursue an artistic career. Probably through Thomas Woolner, a fellow student at the Royal Academy Schools with whom Hancock later shared a studio (c.1852), he soon became associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. John joined the Cyclographic Society together with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Alexander Munro. In 1849 Hancock helped set up the Pre-Raphaelites' magazine 'Monthly Thought' (later 'The Germ') though he afterwards withdrew his financial support. However, he was never admitted to the inner group of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood perhaps because, as Greenwood comments in ODNB (2004), William Michael Rossetti developed a particular dislike for him.
Hancock achieved a number of early successes. He won the premium in a competition organized by the Art Union of London in 1849 for 'Christ's Journey to Jerusalem' (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849), and his plaster statue of Beatrice (1850, V&A) was widely praised at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Hancock was one of the commissioners who selected sculpture for the Great Exhibition and taught modelling at the Central School of Practical Art (later the National Art Training School and Royal College of Art) between 1854-9.
His career was cut short in 1869. He died at 35 Grafton Street East, Tottenham Court Road, London and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery (The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green) on 23 October 1869. Of his known works, the most substantial is a series of architectural reliefs depicting Agriculture, Navigation, Science, Manufacture, Commerce and the Arts for the National Provincial Bank (now the National Westminster Bank), Bishopsgate, London (1864-5). Hancock exhibited at Westminster Hall (1844-5) and at the Royal Academy (1843-64). At least three of his sculptures were reproduced in Parian ware. The limited number of works he left in permanent media suggests his career was partly supported by financial assistance from his family, particularly his uncle Thomas Hancock who left John £4,000 in his will.
Wealth at death: £20 0s. 0d.
Probate date: 28 December 1869
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Exhibitions, Meetings, Awards and other Events
Exhibited at The International Exhibition, London, 1862
Exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, The Eighty-Fourth, 1852
Exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts (Summer Exhibition), 1768-
1843 - 1864
Exhibited 19 times (12 times from 1851), an average of two works per year, usually ideal works.
Institutional and Business Connections
Member of Institute of British Sculptors
Teacher of modeling at Royal College of Art (including National Art Training School)
1854 - 1859
See 'List of Staff' in the 'Report of the Departmental Committee on the Royal College of Art' (1911), p. 60.
Descriptions of Practice
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851
A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841
HO107 piece 669 folio 4/15 page 22
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851
Class: HO107; Piece: 1493; Folio: 106; Page: 18; GSU roll: 87822-87823
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861
RG09 piece 382 folio 105 page 26
London, England, Deaths and Burials 1813-1980
Name: John Hancock Record Type: Burial Estimated Death Date: abt 1869 Burial Date: 23 Oct 1869 Age: 43 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1826 Parish or Poor Law Union: Kensal Green All Souls Borough: Kensington and Chelsea Register Type: Bishop's Transcript London Metropolitan Archives, All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green, Kensington, Transcript of Burials, 1869 Jan-1869 Dec, DL/t Item, 041/037, DL/T/041/037
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Martin Greenwood, ‘Hancock, John (1825/6–1869)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12185, accessed 10 April 2009]
Rules of the Institute of Sculptors
Citing this record
'John Hancock', 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/person.php?id=msib2_1202170267, accessed 23 Mar 2017]