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Bearing the Impossible: The Caryatid in Britain, 1790-1914

O'Neill, Ciarán Rua (2018) Bearing the Impossible: The Caryatid in Britain, 1790-1914. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The classical caryatid has been a ubiquitous presence in the art and architecture of Europe from antiquity onwards. This was especially the case from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries when interest in the motif was at its height and versions of the caryatid made an appearance on a myriad built structures and objets d’art throughout Europe, while its influence was also particularly evident in the work of numerous renowned sculptors and painters. Yet, despite its prevalence across the centuries, and its especial position in Europe’s art and architecture in the long nineteenth century, the caryatid in the modern period remains relatively neglected in studies of art and architectural history. This thesis addresses the lacuna in previous scholarship by examining the modern presence of the caryatid, with a focus on Britain from 1790 to 1914. It comprises two parts, beginning with a historiographical analysis of the caryatid in Europe from antiquity onwards, focusing on Britain from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, in order to disclose the motif’s visual predominance and to analyse the relationship between its use and contemporary artistic and architectural discourse. This is followed by three case studies that investigate the motif’s notable presence in the architectural designs of John Soane (1753-1837), the drawings and paintings of Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), and the sculptural output of Alfred Stevens (1817-1875) and Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934). These demonstrate the pioneering and exemplary manner in which these British individuals employed the caryatid across a variety of media in the period from 1790 to 1914, which exposes their use of the motif in the construction of artistic identities and as a means of projecting cultural authority, as well as displaying their attempts to align their work with theories of classical ideality and intermediality in art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Related URLs:
Academic Units: The University of York > History of Art (York)
Depositing User: Mr Ciarán Rua O'Neill
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 16:40
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2018 16:40
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21534

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