Banks was regarded as one of the leading sculptors of his day. He began his studies as an apprentice to William Barlow, a mason and woodcarver, and he spent his evenings studying drawing. Following this Banks began life drawing classes at St Martin’s Lane Academy. It is thought that by 1769 he was employed as an assistant to the sculptor Richard Hayward. The same year he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools where he went on to win the Rome scholarship, the first sculptor to do so. He travelled to the Italian capital in 1772, returning to England in 1779. Banks then established a career sculpting church memorials. This included a commission in 1783 to realise a vast monument of the army officer, Sir Eyre Coote, for Westminster Abbey. He also collected Old Master drawings.