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Title: Ruralism and Englishness : meaning in paintings of English rural life and labour, c. 1870-1905
Author: O'Brien, James Leslie Graham
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis examines visual representations of English country life and labour in the period 1870 to 1905 in relation to contemporary beliets in the centrality of the rural world to conceptions of national identity and'Englishness'. Centering upon an analysis of oil and watercolour paintings, but also interrogating prints, posters and photographs, the thesis examines the ways in which the production and consumption of images of rural lite in the period addressed and articulated widespread elite cultural concerns over a complex range of social issues, including purported racial degeneration, growing class conflict, and the checking of British imperial ambitions. Divided thematically into five distinct yet interlinked chapters, the thesis investigates firstly the stylistic evolutions in the painting of rural life across the period, and the connections made between particular visual languages and notions of a'national' school of art. The second chapter focuses upon an assessment of pictorial representations of the farmworker, looking in particular at the ways in which visual descriptions of rural labourer's bodies explored ideas of racial identity and national character. Chapters Three and Four look in turn at the representation of the country village and of field sports, the chapters both individually and cumulatively charting the relationship between visual culture and the generation of ideas around community,d eferencea nd social cohesion. The final section addressesth e portrayal of agricultural work, looking specifically at the themes of ploughing and mechanisationa, nd the cultural negotiationo f signso f modernity in the countryside. Treating visual images not as historically-transcendant objects, but as significant elements within a particular and specific material culture, the thesis compares visual images to other contemporary accounts of rural life, including those offered in novels, poetry and agricultural journalism. It views paintings of rural life and labour as critical spaces in which contemporary elite ideologies were actively articulated and contested, describing paintings of the rural world not as sites of settled meaning, but rather as formative elements of a dynamic process that continually re-worked and reevaluated evolving conceptions of rurality and'Englishness'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Oil; Watercolour