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Making love / making work : the sculpture practice of Sarah Bernhardt

Mason, Miranda Eve (2007) Making love / making work : the sculpture practice of Sarah Bernhardt. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

The question this thesis asks is: What does it mean to make the statement 'Sarah Bernhardt, sculptor' based on a massive archive of text and image on one of the nineteenth and early twentieth century's most famous actresses whose sculpture practice has often been dismissed as the work of a part-time amateur? In undertaking to answer this question, I have focussed entirely on what was required for Bernhardt to become a sculptor, to be a sculptor, and to remain a sculptor from c. 1869 until her death in 1923. I examine all these forms of evidence, together with the works Bernhardt produced, under the terms of sculpture history, and not those of biography or visual culture analysis, the usual rubric under which Bernhardt is considered. As such, the thesis aims to distil a substantive analysis and history of one practice of sculpture in nineteenth-century France. The thesis is constructed by asking a series of seemingly simple questions: Did Bernhardt make work? Did she have a dedicated place in which to make work? How was she trained to make work? Did she exhibit and sell or otherwise distribute her work? These questions are answered by paying close attention, in turn, to: one work, the Bust if Louise Abbema (1878, musee d'Orsay, Paris); Bernhardt's studios and homes and the particular function these had as spaces of work and shared, creative and intimate same-sex SOciality; and Bernhardt's training and daily practice as a sculptor, her oeuvre, and exhibiting and sales strategies. Fundamental to Bernhardt's artistic practice was her relationship with the painter Louise Abbema. I consider how the making of Abbema's bust and the reciprocal character of these artists' relationship can be read for, and with, difference in a tripartite configuration of 'living, loving, and working'. The method I use, scholarly lesbian desire, is informed by feminist art history and theory, the social history of art, and queer studies. This method seeks to explore the archive with, and for, desire in an effort to find new ways to research and write that are at once historically and theoretically rigorous and acknowledge the important cultural contribution that 'lesbian' makes to the histories of art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.441203
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2013 15:03
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:26
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4710

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