Chapter

The Dead Hand of Athens

Rupert Richard Arrowsmith

in Modernism and the Museum

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199593699
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595684 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199593699.003.0002

Series: Oxford English Monographs

The Dead Hand of Athens

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This chapter shows that the British Museum was deliberately designed to position European art above that of other culture provinces, and that this damaged the ability of artists and writers based in London to appreciate works from elsewhere. It demonstrates that the exhibition strategies of the Museum and even its layout were derived from the neoclassical theories of the European art academies, and investigates the labelling of extra-European exhibits as anthropology rather than art. The young Jacob Epstein's training in clay modelling at two of the Paris academies is considered, as is his imitation of James Havard Thomas —a radical experimenter in the Greek tradition. These early influences clashed with Epstein's simultaneous fascination for Indian, African, and Egyptian museum exhibits produced by direct carving in stone and wood, and it is shown that he did not allow such enthusiasms to affect his work at this time.

Keywords: Jacob Epstein; British Museum; Modernism; Modernist sculpture; African art; Egypt; Havard Thomas; classical; London

Chapter.  7387 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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