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'Equivocal Positions': The Influence of William Rothenstein, c.1890-1910

Shaw, Samuel (2010) 'Equivocal Positions': The Influence of William Rothenstein, c.1890-1910. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the influence of the artist Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) between the years 1890 and 1910. A talented draughtsman and painter, Rothenstein was also an energetic social networker, a keen critic, an influential force in the foundation of several societies and – in the case of the Carfax – a commercial gallery. This study employs a wide range of sources to trace these achievements, and explains why Rothenstein’s life and work have tended to resist critical interpretation. This study argues that Rothenstein grappled constantly with the notion of being influential. To draw out these tensions, Rothenstein’s relationships with several artists (Charles Ricketts, Max Beerbohm, Charles Conder, Augustus John and Mark Gertler) are explored in depth. Significant aspects of his identity – his status as a middle-class Anglo-German Jew, for instance, or resident of Hampstead – are also considered. It is argued throughout that the complexity and ambiguity of Rothenstein’s identity and close relationships were fuelled by a desire to carefully control his instinct to influence. The Carfax Gallery, co-founded by Rothenstein in 1898, went on to hold important exhibitions of contemporary British art. This thesis offers the first detailed account of the gallery’s origins and subsequent position within the rapidly-changing London art market of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Rothenstein claimed that the gallery was founded to support ‘work of a certain character’; through a close examination of Rothenstein’s writings (including his 1900 study Goya) and art works, significant attributes of this elusive character are revealed. I explore, amongst others, the turn-of-the-century popularity of artists such as Rembrandt, Puvis de Chavannes, Honoré Daumier, Jean-François Millet and Rodin. If a hint of the equivocal remains, this is seen to be justified: Rothenstein sought a critical position that could not, ultimately, be pinned down. This study not only represents the first major attempt to engage with the early career of William Rothenstein, but confirms the artist’s importance to a range of wider issues, through which we may develop new ways of thinking about a much neglected period of British art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History of Art (York)
Depositing User: Mr Samuel Shaw
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2010 16:24
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:45
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1106

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