‘Sculpture ‘in Britain’ vs. ‘British’ Sculpture: Reintegrating the International within the National’

Activity: Academic and Industrial eventsConference, workshop or symposium


‘Sculpture ‘in Britain’ vs. ‘British’ Sculpture: Reintegrating the International within the National’, The National in Discourses of Sculpture in the Long Modern Period (c. 1750–1950) panel, Association of Art Historians annual conference 2018, 5 April.

The history of sculpture in 19th-century Britain has been dominated by the study of contemporary sculpture by British-born sculptors. Yet their theoretical and practical knowledge and experience was developed in relation to a much more international and transhistoric range of sculptors and sculptures, from Italian Renaissance monuments at Westminster Abbey, to Albert Carrier-Belleuse’s designs for Minton’s. This paper argues for the reintegration of the international within our understanding of national ‘schools’. It seeks a less isolationist approach that acknowledges the historical mobility of sculpture and of sculptors not only outside of Britain, as in Rome, but also within Britain’s own shores.
This paper will focus on the specific example of Hamo Thornycroft, and his engagement with both ‘British’ and ‘non-British’ sculpture in Britain. It will examine the range of sculpture that formed part of his training, as documented in his sketchbooks. It will also foreground his unpublished 1886 Chart of Sculpture, in which he attempted to make sense of the various influences which had worked upon his own – and upcoming – generation of British sculptors. Predating Alfred Barr’s chart of modern art by 50 years, this complex mapping project complicates and disrupts the idea of national schools of sculpture. For Thornycroft, it is the voyages made beyond national and stylistic parameters that define sculpture. His approach offers new avenues for the study of sculpture in 19th-century Britain, opening up a broader, and more indicative understanding of sculpture practice in the period than the current emphasis on ‘British’ sculpture.
Period5 Apr 2018
Event titleAssociation of Art Historians Annual Conference 2018
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational