COCHRANE, JOHN, sculptor; baptized 31 March 1813 near Perth, Scotland, son of James Cochrane and Elizabeth Paton; d. unmarried 31 July 1850 in Toronto.
John Cochrane, accompanied by his mother and his two brothers, James and David, left Scotland for Toronto in May 1845. The three brothers had enjoyed reputations as fine craftsmen in the Perth area, and their emigration was publicly lamented. Although not the eldest, John apparently took the leading role in establishing a business that probably employed all three brothers. His advertisement in the British Colonist of 31 Aug. 1847 announced his field as “sculpture in marble and stone” and listed as his specialities “Statues, Coats of Arms, Monuments, Tomb Stones, Sun Dials, Fonts, Vases, Chimney Pieces, Modelling, Ornaments &c.”
Very soon after his arrival, Cochrane formed an association with Toronto architect William Thomas*, who used the Cochranes on all his important commissions between 1845 and 1850. The sculptor worked with Thomas on the decorations for the interior of St Paul’s Church (Anglican) in London. Cochrane was also responsible for the stone and stucco ornamentation of St Michael’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic) in Toronto, and for the stone carving, including a coat of arms in the central gable, on the episcopal palace just north of the cathedral. All three Cochranes were employed in Toronto in 1850 to embellish the exterior of Thomas’s masterpiece, St Lawrence Hall. Among the notable decorations are the 16 Corinthian capitals on the façade, and the elaborately carved brackets, swags, rosettes, and panels. Three heads, said to represent the river god of the St Lawrence as well as the gods of Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls, were sculpted as keystones over the three arched ground-floor entrances. The most sophisticated work in the hall was on the coats of arms. Before 1850 Cochrane had already attracted favourable attention for his carving of coats of arms, including the one that adorned the Bank of British North America (now demolished) sculpted shortly after his arrival in Toronto. The arms of the city of Toronto, combined with the royal arms and standing figures of an Indian and Britannia, all mounted on the pediment of the façade of St Lawrence Hall, was almost certainly one of his last works.
Although there is no documentation linking Cochrane’s name with other buildings, it seems probable that his hand was responsible for the extensive carving that adorned Thomas’s own residence, Oakham House at 322 Church Street. It is also possible that in 1848 Cochrane worked on another of Thomas’s projects, the church for the congregation of John Jennings* (now demolished) at the southeast corner of Richmond and Bay streets. Thomas and Cochrane were probably not only associates, but also friends: the stone portrait of Thomas adorning one side of the main entrance of the episcopal palace displays much more character than that of the matching figure of Bishop Michael Power on the other side. The two men were buried in adjacent plots in St James’ Cemetery, Toronto.
After Cochrane’s death his brothers carried on in business with a stone-cutter, Robert Pollock, in a partnership called Cochranes and Pollock, until 1852 when David Cochrane and Pollock formed a new partnership.
In 1847 at the Toronto Society of Arts exhibition, John Cochrane exhibited a Gothic head carved in stone, an angelic head designed by Thomas, and the plans for the interior of St Paul’s. The next year he served on the committee of management for the exhibition, which displayed his plaster statue of Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*]. To the 1848 Toronto Mechanics’ Institute exhibition he contributed a royal arms in plaster, a rustic sun-dial, and the statue of Brant (which he owned). The statue attracted praise for its wealth of truthful detail and may have served as the model for the Indian in the St Lawrence Hall coat of arms.
Though he remains a shadowy figure whose work is often submerged in that of Cochrane Brothers, John Cochrane’s surviving works suggest he was a superior craftsman. His premature death at the age of 38 no doubt robbed his adopted city of many more fine stone carvings.
MTRL, Toronto, Mechanics’ Institute papers, D25. Toronto Soc. of Arts, Toronto Society of Arts: first exhibition, 1847 . . . ([Toronto?, 1847?]); Toronto Society of Arts: second exhibition, 1848 . . . ([Toronto?, 1848?]). British Canadian, and Canada West Commercial and General Advertiser (Toronto), 27 March 1847. British Colonist, 19, 26 March, 31 Aug., 3 Sept. 1847; 28 April 1848; 2 Aug. 1850. Globe, 1 Aug. 1850. E. [R.] Arthur, Toronto, no mean city ([Toronto], 1964). M. E. and Merilyn McKelvey, Toronto, carved in stone (Toronto, 1984). C. D. Lowrey, “The Toronto Society of Arts, 1847–48: patriotism and the pursuit of culture in Canada West,” RACAR (Quebec and Toronto), 12 (1985): 3–44.
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