Sophia Rosamund Praeger (1867 – 1954)

Spring, c.1934

Plaster relief

19cm x 73cm x 6cm

From the collection of the North Down Museum

Born in Holywood, county Down, Sophia ‘Rosamund’ Praeger was the daughter of Willem Emil Praeger, a Dutch immigrant. Praeger studied at the Belfast Government School of Art and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London before moving to Paris in 1892 to complete her studies in sculpture. On her return home she rented a number of studios in Belfast, before building St Brigid's Studio on Hibernia Street in Holywood, which she worked from until her death in 1954. She became a highly respected and accomplished artist who worked as a designer, painter, author and illustrator of children’s stories. She also produced artwork for several publications written by her brother Robert Lloyd Praeger, a famous naturalist. However, it was in sculpture that she truly excelled.

In terms of subject matter, Praeger is best known for her depictions of Irish mythology and children. Throughout her life she worked hard to raise money for children’s charities and even gifted her studio “for the benefit of the children of Holywood” as a place for them to enjoy art. Although this building no longer stands, Praeger’s artwork can be found across Northern Ireland, from her sculptures like the ‘Johnny the Jig’ in Holywood to First World War memorials in churches and schools.

This plasterwork sculpture was carved alongside a similar piece called Tug-Of-War. The pair were originally designed for installation in an architectural surround. The finished pieces were made of Hopton Wood stone and displayed at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1934.The stone versions were purchased by the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery from the artist in 1947. This plasterwork sculpture was donated to North Down Museum by Christina Cross in 2016 on behalf of her late husband, Brian Norman Cross.