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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Flaxman, Flaxman, Flaxman…. and more Flaxman!!!… and Le Corbusier

By Nina Pearlman, on 20 May 2011

John Flaxman

was known throughout Europe for his innovative drawing style and for his sculptures. His work was copied and appropriated by many of his peers at the time, and influenced numerous artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. Flaxman’s pursuit of the pure outline was what appealed in particular to the modernist  appetite. And yet…

Although celebrated and much in demand, and – in today’s journalistic speak – a great British export – Flaxman remains largely unknown to many: artists and non-artists alike. Equally unknown is his work as Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy, a position he took up 200 years ago. Last year we dedicated an exhibition to Flaxman’s preparatory sketches in which he worked through his ideas for three dimensional sculptures. They reveal his almost obsessive dedication to a the creation of a modern school of sculpture.

Since we hold an unrivalled collection of works by this Neo Classical powerhouse, including his illustrations for Homer’s Iliad, we are always delighted to see others revisit Flaxman .

On Wednesday 25th May, Jan Birksted from the Bartlett School of Architecture will be flagging up the Flaxman-Le Corbusier connection as our guest curator in our new Lunchtime Pop-Up Display series.


Jan points out that Le Corbusier made his illustrations for the Iliad over Flaxman’s illustrations. And as Jan says ‘In so doing, he established his originality and his modernity by writing the margin – Not a single sign of Life. Homer is assassinated.

Flaxman’s fame is also well established outside UCL.  Earlier this year Flaxman’s innovations in sculpture were featured on prime time television in the BBC’s  compelling documentary ‘Romancing the Stone: The Golden Ages of British Sculpture’. In the second episode, titled Mavericks of Empire, the presenter Alastair Stooke looked at ‘mavericks who bucked the prevailing trends, such as John Flaxman, Francis Chantrey and Alfred Gilbert’. The segment on Flaxman was filmed in our very own Flaxman Gallery!


Another little known fact, that we are always happy to flag up again and again, is that the Flaxman Gallery was featured in Chris Nolan’s award winning film Inception starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Michael Caine! You can read all about this experience on the Film London Website.


We hope to see you on the 25th May at Jan’s Pop-Up in the Strang Print Room. Please do share your comments with us here. And, if you would like to work with us, come see us, or write to us!

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