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Title: The rise of the leisure painter : artistic creativity within the experience of ordinary life in postwar Britain, c. 1945-2000
Author: Brown, Ruth Katharine
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 6397
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Since John Ruskin and William Morris's protestations against mass production in the nineteenth century, critics of mass consumption thought that it not only reduced the necessity, but also the desire, to make things for personal use and enjoyment. The history of leisure painting in art societies and adult education, and of the amateur artist’s consumption of art materials and self-help literature, shows that, on the contrary, affluence both inspired and facilitated a quest for self-actualisation amongst the rank and file. Creative activities such as drawing and painting served this quest at little financial cost to the individual. Following the Second World War, a significant increase in the take-up of leisure painting was encouraged by the state as part of the broader postwar settlement. The pursuit of personal wellbeing through creative activity was regarded as a public good, of benefit not only to individuals but also to the communities of which they were a part. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, state support for recreational pursuits such as leisure painting was pared back: in the shift from collectivist social democracy towards individualist market liberalism, personal enjoyment was recast as a private affair for which the consumer must pay. Painting continued to grow in popularity, supported by expanding consumer markets in self-help literature and affordable art materials. Yet while consumerism sustained the popularity of amateur art-making, the ways in which amateur artists participated in the arts changed. Personal creativity emerges here as an inherently social activity: the private experience of creativity is mediated and structured by society. Consumerism was not bad for personal creativity per se, but the replacement of a communitarian approach with a consumerist model restricted the breadth and reach of creative aspiration nurtured as part of the postwar settlement. By the end of the century, most amateurs were painting alone.
Supervisor: Offer, Avner Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economic and Social History ; modern ; british ; history ; art ; amateur ; affluence ; social democracy ; market liberalism