Alexander Stoddart

James Clerk Maxwell, 1831 – 1879. Physicist (2009)

About this artwork

This is a study for the statue of the physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, commissioned by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and erected in George Street in 2008. Maxwell, with his dog Toby at his feet, holds a spinning colour top. This device enabled him to analyse the phenomenon of colour perception and in 1861 he produced the first colour photographic image using red, green and blue filters. In the side reliefs the figures of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are depicted as classical philosophers. Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism influenced Einstein, who remarked that his predecessor’s theories were “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton”.

Alexander Stoddart

Alexander Stoddart

Born in Edinburgh, Stoddart studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1976-80. There he challenged modernist, multi-media approaches and began instead to produce austere, neo-classical busts and statues. Briefly associated with Ian Hamilton Finlay in the mid 1980s, it was later in the decade that Stoddart began making more public works, including: deities for the Italian Centre, Glasgow; David Hume for Edinburgh’s Royal Mile; two John Witherspoon statues for the universities of Paisley and Princeton; and a scheme of architectural sculpture for the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Often controversial and certainly ambitious, Stoddart has spoken of his desire to create Scotland’s own Mount Rushmore - a 2275ft sculpture of the Gaelic bard Ossian carved into a mountain-side.