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Title: Breaking Cover : Exhibiting Early Modern British Art 1979-1995
Author: Freeman, Julian David
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2009
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Abstract:
'Early Modern British Art' was executed between c1880 and c1920, but from 1940 until the later 1970s it was a neglected generic area in the study of Art in the British Isles, directly at odds with many of the prevalent trends in American - European art. Though its constituent works ranged from the inherently representational to the (at least) semi-abstract, such diversity in so short a time-span attracted little research in Britain, and with certain important exceptions the era was generally undervalued by the British art market. This thesis considers the evolution, research, philosophical positioning, and contribution to the history of British art of four exhibitions, Made at the Slade, The Art of Frank Brangwyn, Jewish Artists in an English Context and Life at Arm's Length: Sir Edward Poynter, devised and exhibited by the writer during the period 1979-1995. The critical positioning of the exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues were based on a long-standing familiarity with works of the era, and upon extensive, rolling research using a combination of pre-existing and entirely novel sources. Before 1960, most catalogue essays had been brief and of a narrative / documentary nature. Even when over-arching evaluations of the early Modern British era were presented in exhibition and catalogue format, they were usually repetitious, lacking in analysis, and so broke little new perceptual or historical ground. The four exhibitions confronted this tendency, and in their different ways, their investigations of ideas and practice uncovered and redirected British art histories that demanded greater general awareness and appreciation within the setting of Modernism. The thesis notes the increasing importance and value of exhibition catalogues, during the 1970s and afterwards, as vehicles for the dissemination of new ideas and information in the absence of commentary in book format, whilst setting in context the publication of new books during the 1980s which treated early Modern British art to a level of analytical commentary formerly absent. The thesis introduces the catalogue texts in chronological order, setting out the conceptual background to each exhibition, and evaluating its contemporary impact, and its current value. Made at the Slade was the first commentary to use archival material to begin to unpick the Slade's activities and achievements over so long a period, and to attempt a revaluation of the school's importance from c1880-1925, the period of its greatest fame, until 1960. The exhibition and its catalogue challenged all previous exhibited surveys of early Modern British art, by successfully presenting familiar, unknown and forgotten artists of quality to a new audience. The Art of Frank Brangwyn evolved from an interest in Brangwyn's drawing. It was first intended to be a reassessment, only to become an extensive, objective revaluation of a 'difficult' and marginalised figure, the first since 1924, and the last until 2006. The essay to Jewish Artists in an English Context accompanied an invited exhibition for a conference setting, and seized the opportunity to challenge the inadequacies of sociological and art historical analyses of an era in Britain in which the social integration and assimilation of immigrant Jews was of real importance for Modern art. The final essay, Life at Arm's Length on Sir Edward Poynter, remains the artist's sole career overview since Poynter's obituary. It developed what until then had been a very incomplete understanding of Poynter's varied career, to consider issues that were as pertinent in 1995 as they had been in 1895, including public and establishment reactions to Poynter's treatment of the nude figure, especially that of the female nude, in drawing and painting during the second part of his career; the development of art training, and the place of the Royal Academy in Victorian and Edwardian society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.507202  DOI: Not available
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