‘Reforming Academicians’, Sculptors of the Royal Academy of Arts, c.1948-59

PhD Thesis Abstract

Post-war sculpture created by members of the Royal Academy of Arts was seemingly marginalised by Keynesian state patronage which privileged a new generation of avant-garde sculptors. This thesis considers whether selected Academicians (Siegfried Charoux, Frank Dobson, Maurice Lambert, Alfred Machin, John Skeaping and Charles Wheeler) variously engaged with pedagogy, community, exhibition practice and sculpture for the state, to access ascendant state patronage. Chapter One, ‘The Post-war Expansion of State Patronage’, investigates the existing and shifting parameters of patronage of the visual arts and specifically analyses how this was manifest through innovative temporary sculpture exhibitions. Chapter Two, ‘The Royal Academy Sculpture School’, examines the reasons why the Academicians maintained a conventional fine arts programme of study, in contrast to that of industrial design imposed by Government upon state art institutions for reasons of economic contribution. This chapter also analyses the role of the art-Master including the influence of émigré teachers, prospects for women sculpture students and the post-war scarcity of resources which inspired the use of new materials and techniques. Chapter Three, ‘The Royal Academy as Community’, traces the socialisation of London-based art societies whose memberships helped to identify sculptors for potential election to the Royal Academy; it then considers the gifting of elected Academicians’ Diploma Works. The empirical mapping of sponsorship for elected sculptors is investigated to determine how the organic profile of the Royal Academy’s membership began to accommodate more modern sculptors and identifies a petition for change which may have influenced Munnings’s speech (1949). Chapter Four, ‘The Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions’, explores the preparatory rituals of the Selection and Hanging Committees, processes for the selection of amateurs’ works, exhibit genres and critical reception. Moreover it contrasts the Summer Exhibitions with the Arts Council’s ‘Sculpture in the Home’ exhibition series to identify potential duplications. Chapter Five, ‘Sculpture for the State’, considers three diverse conduits facilitating the acquisition of sculpture for the state: The Chantrey Collection administered by the Royal Academy and exhibited at the Tate Gallery; the commissioning of Charles Wheeler’s Earth and Water (1951–1953) for the new Ministry of Defence, London; and the selection of Siegfried Charoux’s The Neighbours (1959) for London County Council’s ‘Patronage of the Arts Scheme’. For these sculptures, complex expressions of ‘Britishness’ are considered. In summary this thesis argues that unfettered by their allegiance to the Royal Academy of Arts its sculptors sought ways in which they might participate in the unprecedented opportunities that an expanded model of state patronage presented.

Comments are closed.