Breaking the Mould

Modern Sculpture in early 20th Century Britain

Wednesday 22 March 2022

Digby Hall, Hound Street, Sherborne

It is a forbidding challenge to overturn 400 years of accepted definitions and standards in art and create a new language. Sculptors faced the same, if not even greater challenges than painters in re-inventing their conservative, expensive practice geared to the needs of public commissions and private patronage during the early 20th century. Artists across Europe  including Picasso and Matisse. Brancusi and Modigliani, Duchamp-Villon and Boccioni were jettisoning classical baggage and literary lumber in favour of radical experiments in form, material and content. This Study Day looks at how in Britain carvings by Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, Henri-Gaudier-Brzeska and the young Henry Moore engaged with mainland Europe and challenged critical and public taste.

Presenter: Evelyn Silber

Evelyn Silber is the author of the standard books and curated exhibitions on the work of Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and has more recently been researching the exhibition and marketing of modernist art by London commercial galleries during the early twentieth century. She studied at Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania before becoming an art curator and subsequently Assistant Director at Birmingham Museums. She was Director of Leeds Museums and Galleries and of the Hunterian, University of Glasgow. Based in Glasgow she is involved in a range of heritage projects including chairmanship of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and of the Scottish Treasure Trove Panel and leads specialist cultural tours to the city. She is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.

Programme for the day

10:00 -10:15 Arrival and Greeting
Please take your seats in the Hall by 10:25
10:30 Lecture 1
Rodin-new beginnings and the great reaction – A European overview: Sculpture around 1900. Simmering discontent with old sculptural forms, looking at new influences – Eastern, medieval, African and Oceanic and how these affected some of the early moderns.
11:30 Coffee break

11:50 Lecture 2

Raising modern sculpture from the dead: Epstein, Gill and Gaudier-Brzeska in pre-1914 London. Focussing on the most advanced work in Britain before World War One.
13:00 Luncheon
14:00 Lecture 3
Taking the brickbats for modern art: Epstein, the critics and the public focussing on his work from c 1920-59 and the rise of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and co.
15:00 Questions and Answers
15:30 approx Closure and departure