Bodies of Evidence: Making New Histories of 20th Century British Scuplture
This thesis includes a monograph, The Sculpture of Charles Wheeler (London: Lund Humphries in association with the Henry Moore Foundation, 2012), and a catalogue essay ‘Let There Be History: Epstein’s BMA House Sculptures’, in\ud Modern British Sculpture, ed.by Penelope Curtis and Keith Wilson (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2011). The book is the first study of Wheeler, an important but neglected sculptor who was President of the Royal Academy from 1956-66; the Epstein essay looks anew at a notorious episode in the career of one of modernism’s canonical practitioners, coming to radically different conclusions to the accepted narrative. The accompanying analytical commentary reflects on the\ud complex research journey towards understanding and articulating hidden histories of modern British sculpture. Deploying traditional methodologies of archive exploration and making connections between divergent critical and artistic groupings has enabled the construction of new histories. Disrupting the appropriation and elision of ‘modern’ with ‘modernist’ and ‘avant-garde’ restores the work of non-canonical practitioners to the historical moment of the first half of\ud the 20th Century, while historical analysis draws mythologised artists into the contingencies of the real world. These publications offer original insights and their impact is becoming evident in the fields of British sculptural and architectural\ud history. Beginning in the recent past as I prepared to write this thesis, the commentary\ud moves into the deeper history of the research journey, considering my theoretical approaches, the initial difficulties of writing against the prevailing academic fashion, the serendipities of a supportive scholarly milieu and the details of making Wheeler’s history. The value of the monograph itself is discussed. Reviewing\ud Epstein’s modernist cause célèbre proved the transferable value of dispassionate archival research. The commentary finally comes full circle, concluding in October 2014 when I found myself, unexpectedly, implicated in the very history to which I have contributed.
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