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Title: Women, representation and the spiritual in the works of Thomas Cooper Gotch, Robert Anning Bell and Frederick Cayley Robinson
Author: Eden, Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 6348 708X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the works of three ‘forgotten’ British artists, working from the late nineteenth century and well into the 1920s. In a period which saw momentous changes associated with the onset of modernity, artworks appeared to speak of revivalism, tradition, even nostalgia, rather than the new. Thomas Cooper Gotch, Robert Anning Bell and Frederick Cayley Robinson shared an interest in the spiritual, the unseen and immaterial, which they expressed through representations of women, placing faith, broadly, in ‘the feminine’ as synonymous with humanity’s neglected ‘spirit’ in the modern, materialistic world. The eclectic and contradictory nature of the artworks examined, their complex and ambiguous representations of womanhood and female spirituality were expressive of the condition of modernity in its rich, varied forms. These artworks are analysed in the context of an important historical moment for the feminist movement, since all three artists addressed the explosion in female agency related to contemporary feminism, the ‘gender crisis’ and the Suffragette movement. By placing artworks in this context, I have attempted to bring women, their presence in the public sphere and visual culture, their discovery of a ‘feminist voice’ in this period, into the frame. Women imagined invigorating movements, from the confines of the domestic interior into the airy heights of mountain tops, using languages of righteousness and joyous expectancy, and the artworks examined provide visual analogues and commentaries on these feminist possibilities and new imaginative aspirations. While all three artists mediated the visual ‘types’ of womanhood available within art languages, they created quite distinct images of women. Representations range from Gotch’s female Messiah, where woman’s spiritual power originates in her innocence and purity, Bell’s images of Amazonian strength allied with a closer female relationship with nature, to more occult versions in Cayley Robinson’s paintings, related to theosophy. The artworks participated in a tremendous moment of hope for women in their endeavours toward autonomy and fulfilment. In presenting women’s spiritual role as humanity’s redeemer, these paintings reveal how art may envisage intangible forms of spirituality and emancipatory possibilities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Warwick ; Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: N Visual arts (General)