‘The Benin Things are Fine, Fine’

Rupert Richard Arrowsmith

in Modernism and the Museum

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199593699
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595684 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

‘The Benin Things are Fine, Fine’

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This chapter focuses on the shift in attention of the London avant-garde towards visual art from West Africa and the Pacific islands from late 1912 into the war years. New evidence is presented showing that Epstein's first African experiments occurred no earlier than 1913. They are shown to have begun with an adaptation of aesthetics derived from the art of Benin City before engaging with Yoruba and Akan sculpture. The presentation of African art in institutions such as the British Museum is considered alongside its availability in various commercial galleries of the time and its reception by other members of the avant-garde such as D. H. Lawrence. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska is shown to have developed around the same time an interest in the Oceanic pieces in the British Museum that would inform works such as the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound.

Keywords: Jacob Epstein; Gaudier Brzeska; D. H. Lawrence; African art; Benin; British Museum; Frobenius; Vorticism; Modernism; sculpture

Chapter.  7506 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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