UC Berkeley History of Art Department

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Between “dirty ghosts” and “a tailor’s dummy”: The Contested Form of the Victorian Public Statue


Claire Jones, University of Birmingham

Britain’s streets, squares, parks, and public buildings are peopled with statues which were mainly commissioned, produced, and erected during the Victorian period. These generally follow a similar format—a white, middle-aged man a frockcoat, standing on a four-foot-high plinth. Today these statues are rarely remarked upon, except when their subject is challenged and debated. Yet the apparent homogeneity and conservatism of these figures belie the fact that, in its day, the portrait statue was one of the most contested forms of sculpture. This paper will examine how, in sculptural terms, these statues reveal a profound experiment in modelling modern man.
 
Dr. Claire Jones is a Lecturer in the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies, University of Birmingham, UK. Her research centres on the history of sculpture, and she is completing a monograph on sculpture in 19th-century Britain, which examines the ways in which sculptors attempted to make sculpture more relevant to contemporary life. Her publications include Sculptors and Design Reform in France, 1848–1895: Sculpture and the Decorative Arts (Ashgate, 2014), and she is co-editing Sculpture and the Decorative in Britain and Europe, 17th Century to Contemporary, with Imogen Hart (UC Berkeley).

This event is sponsored by the Center for British Studies and the History of Art Department.