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Object of the week 384: Rosemary Young, Bull, 1951

NinaPearlman28 June 2019

This blog is written by a team of UCL Museum Studies students – Sarah Waite, Lok Hei Wong, Patricia Roberts and Yiting Fu – and draws upon their research project into the Slade School of Fine art historic sculpture prize, undertaken in collaboration with the UCL Art Museum as part of their MA degree.

See image credits below

We had the fantastic opportunity to focus our Collections Curatorship course project with UCL Art Museum on an area of the Slade collection that is under-researched. During our research, we uncovered this small bronze sculpture in the UCL Art Museum’s store. Bull (1951) was modelled by Rosemary Young (b.1930) , who was a student at the Slade from 1949 to 1953, and then cast by Reg Butler (1913-1931), who taught at the art school. The artwork won the Slade Sculpture Prize in 1951 and is the only prize-winning sculpture retained by the School and now part of UCL Art Museum’s Slade Collection . A highly sought after honour, to receive a Slade prize meant that the student’s work was recognised as exemplary by a panel of the most highly regarded artists and academics in Britain.

Rosemary Young

During her time at the Slade, Young was under the tutorship of Professor A.H. Gerrard, sculpture assistant Frederick Edward McWilliam and artist Reg Butler.

After Young graduated from the Slade, she went on to become an assistant in Reg Butler’s sculpture studio. Young gave up her own work for an extended period in order to focus on casting and producing Reg Butler’s work, eventually becoming his second wife. In this period of Young’s life, the narrative of her work becomes subsumed into the role of ‘assistant’.

Young describes how none of her female peers at the Slade became successful artists, and reflects on how the expectations of the feminine role in the 1950s were incompatible with developing a career as a famous artist:

(To become a famous female artist at the time) you had to be a very very extraordinary person […]it was almost as if, not through any fault of his, he (Butler) just sucked it away, he drew it out, drew all your energy away from creativity, into being part of a partnership”. (Butler, 1999, p.138)

During our research project, we have been particularly interested in giving the Slade’s female sculptors the recognition that they deserve, after having been excluded from the art historical canon for many years due to the intersecting factors of socialised and institutionalised sexism.

Whilst Young’s contribution to British Sculpture may be overlooked today, at the start of her career she was a part of the ‘Young British Sculptors’ exhibition which toured galleries across Germany between 1955 and 1956. As well as being one of only two female sculptors to have shown work in this exhibition, Young had only recently graduated from the Slade. To have been selected by the British Council to represent her country internationally was a huge honour and a mark of her significance to British sculptural practice at the time.

Furthermore, she exhibited work alongside work by Robert Clatworthy and Takis Vassilakis at the Hanover Gallery in 1955. John Berger’s review of the Hanover Gallery exhibition captures the character of Young’s work:

Her excitement must surely derive from the degree to which she can bend, separate and impress a gentle, calm form into vitality” (Berger 1955).

To learn more about Young, her oral testimony is available here and her exhibition history can be found here

A prize-winning sculpture: Bull

The Slade has never actively collected prize-winning sculpture. However, the exception is Bull. Whilst it is unknown why this sculpture in particular was retained by the School, it is likely that the connection to Reg Butler, played a significant role. It is one of the earliest examples of the unique shell bronze casting method that the famous British sculptor used to make many of his later works. Therefore, Bull is likely to be a commercially valuable sculpture, as well as an interesting work that documents how his shell bronze casting method developed. Furthermore, given Butler’s affection and high regard for Young, it can be speculated that he was able to influence the Slade to collect Bull whilst he was still working as a lecturer.

Whilst the rest of the prize-winning works remain unknown, Bull acts as a tangible representation of the missing sculpture prize collection as a whole: a sculpture to sit upon the ‘empty plinth’. Young’s sculpture represents the qualities that would have made a prize-winning work: rigorously honed technical training, combined with individual creativity and vision. Bull can also exemplify the diversity of sculptors that were winners of the Slade sculpture prize, which was unusual for traditional art schools at the time. Created at a time when female sculptors were in the minority in the British art sector, it acts as a physical reminder of the prevalence of female sculptors at the Slade, who were accepted into the school in equal numbers as the male candidates, and who won sculpture prizes more regularly than their male counterparts.

Finally, a prize-winning work marks a time of potential for a student, a turning-point in their careers as artists. Bull embodies Young’s first exposure to the shell bronze casting method which would become the predominant casting method for her sculpture in later years. We imagine the other prize-winning works to also be sculptural embodiments of artistic progress and promise.

To find out more about the history of the prize-system at the Slade that dates back to the formative years of the School and continues today visit Spotlight on the Slade.

To find out more about the history of women artists at UCL and journeys in gender equality across the disciplines more widely visit Disrupters and Innovators and Prize and Prejudice

 

References

Butler, R. & Whiteley G. (1999-2000) ‘National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives: Rosemary Butler’. The British Library. [online] Available at: https://sounds.bl.uk/related-content/TRANSCRIPTS/021T-C0466X0094XX-ZZZZA0.pdf [Accessed 10/03/19].

Berger, J. (1955) ‘Two Views’. New Statesman. London.

Image credits listed in order of appearance:

Rosemary Young, Bull, 1951. UCL Art Museum LDUCS-10010

Photograph of Rosemary Young working alongside Reg Butler in his studio. (photographer unknown) © Witt & Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Object of the Week 364: Cast of rickets

NinaPearlman25 October 2018

Dr Nina Pearlman is Head of UCL Art Collections and curator of  Disrupters and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL (UCL Octagon Gallery till February 2019)

My object of the week is a plaster cast of a child’s leg deformed by the disease rickets (UCL Pathology Collection P59b), included in the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition in the display case that features UCL women scientists. Amongst these scientists is Dame Harriette Chick (1875-1977) who is credited with finding the cause and cure for rickets. Her many contributions to preventative medicine were recognised with both a CBE and a DBE.

This object gives me pause to ask, how were women scientists perceived in the early twentieth century? What anti-feminist sentiments did they have to contend with and how did they go on to make groundbreaking and lasting discoveries despite the persistence of the anti-feminist agenda, at the time labelled anti-suffragist?

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Object of the Week 361: Alice Joyce Smith, Drawing of Drapery, First Prize (Equal), 1918

5 October 2018

Alice Joyce Smith, A Study of Drapery, 1981 (LDUCS-6061) © the copyright holder

It’s not difficult to imagine what Alice Joyce Smith (b.1896) felt when she learned she had won the very first Drapery Drawing Prize awarded by the Slade School of Fine Art back in 1918. How she handled sharing it as First Prize (Equal) with fellow student artist Dorothy Josephine Coke (b.1897) is another matter. (more…)

New Grant Museum exhibition ‘Agonism/Antagonism’ is open

Tannis M NDavidson21 September 2018

The Grant Museum is delighted to announce the opening of  Agonism/Antagonism, a new exhibition exploring evolution and genetics through the stunning artworks of multidisciplinary artist Neus Torres Tamarit and computer scientist Ben Murray – the art and science duo known as Phenotypica.

Acrylic Sculpture. Neus Torres Tamarit

Acrylic Sculpture. © Neus Torres Tamarit.

The exhibition is the result of Neus’ residency with the Max Reuter laboratory at UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, where she has been immersed in the research, techniques and tools used to study the genetic evolution of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Dr. Max Reuter and his team use fruit flies to conduct research into the evolution of sexual dimorphism. In sexually reproducing species, the genetic needs of the two genders are often in direct conflict; a phenomenon known as sexual antagonism. The tension between the genders is eventually broken by mutations that decouple the traits in males and females, resulting in new differences (dimorphisms) between them.

Acrylic Sculpture. Neus Torres Tamarit

Acrylic Sculpture. © Neus Torres Tamarit.

Reflecting the aesthetic environment of the laboratory and exploring the uneasy alliance that exists between males and females of a species, Agonism/Antagonism is the intersection between art, science and technology. Artworks include bioplastic sculptures which float among the skeletons, digital art and projections, animated explorations of genetic antagonism in virtual reality and CT scans of fruit flies.

Gender A - Gender B. Neus Torres Tamarit.

‘Gender A – Gender B’. Neus Torres Tamarit. 2018.

Neus and Ben are interested in how artworks about genetics interact with the subject and with the audience, and how accurately such artworks present their scientific concepts. The aim of their work is to remove the boundaries that often separate science from the rest of human activity and reveal the creativity and beauty in scientific research and discovery.

Agonism/Antagonism runs until 22nd December 2018. Full details on the exhibition’s website.

The Grant Museum of Zoology is open from 1–5pm Monday to Saturday. Admission is free and there is no need to book.

Tannis Davidson is the Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology

 

 

Internal Beauty opens today

JackAshby17 January 2018

It is very easy to say that biology is beautiful, and obviously a lot of it is. But when it comes to cow rectums, pig fat, maggot-infested mushrooms and sheep testicles, people may need a bit more convincing of the aesthetic qualities of nature. These are the primary materials that make up the artworks in our new exhibition – Internal Beauty – which opens today.

Artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva has created sculptures and installations from caul fat (the tissue that encases pig stomachs and intestines) and other animal organs, drawing attention to parts of the body we would sometimes rather forget. There is no denying the results are exquisite.

Elpida at work in a previous exhibition (Haruspex, Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham) cow’s stomach, lamb intestines, caul fat, 2016, photo Nick Dunmur

Elpida at work in a previous exhibition (Haruspex, Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham) cow’s stomach, lamb intestines, caul fat, 2016, photo Nick Dunmur

The Grant Museum shares its building with the UCL Medical School (we moved in to what was once the Medical School’s library in 2011), and Elpida’s work has brought some of the cutting-edge research that our neighbours are undertaking into the museum. Internal Beauty is an exhibition resulting from Hadzi-Vasileva’s residency in biomedical research labs, (funded by Wellcome Trust), considering nutrition, our gut and how man-made, microscopic materials can fix problems. (more…)

Focus on Slade Women Artists 2017 – 2018

MartineRouleau19 June 2017

 

Paula Rego, Under Milkwood

Paula Rego, Under Milkwood, 1954, Oil on canvas,
UCL Art Museum 5581. © The Artist.
First Prize Equal for Summer
Composition, 1954. All UCL Art
Museum’s paintings can be viewed online at Art UK

Spotlight on the Slade Collections is a research project supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, aimed at increasing access to UCL Art Museum’s Slade Collections through research, cataloguing, digitisation, collaboration and public engagement. Emerging out of this project for 2017 – 2018, UCL Art Museum will focus its research and events programming on a key component of the collection: Slade Women Artists.

Approximately 45% of works in UCL Art Museum’s collection are by women artists. Typically, permanent collections in Europe and the US contain between 3-5% of works by women. For their recent exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, art activists the Guerrilla Girls sent questionnaires to 383 European museums and collections to ascertain the gender and nationality balance within their collections. Of the 101 institutions that responded, only 2 collections contained 40% or more works by women.

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Spotlight on the Slade: New findings

MartineRouleau17 May 2017

Blog post written by Helen Downes, Paul Mellon Centre Research Curator

UCL6602 Portrait of a Man, 1939 by Nancy Dorothea Craig-Barr. © Estate of the artist. Name inscribed at upper right.

UCL6602 Portrait of a Man, 1939 by Nancy Dorothea Craig-Barr. © Estate of the artist. Name inscribed at upper right.

Exciting findings continue to emerge from UCL Art Museum’s Spotlight on Slade, the research and cataloguing project generously supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
Recent findings have unearthed new information about Slade artists and have focused attention on the cataloguing process itself and how artists, subjects and meanings can be subsumed and potentially lost through the process of cataloguing.
As I work through the Slade Drawings collection, looking at each work, checking and updating title, date and artist information, I am also recording the numerous inscriptions on the works. These can range from artist signatures to notes by the student or the tutor, a scribbled record of a prize won or a subject drawn. Many record the old ‘Slade No.’ which corresponds with the original Slade record slip detailing the artist, title, subject and prize awarded. A whole group of works have been carefully inscribed by Randolphe Schwabe (Slade Professor 1930 – 1948). Interesting itself is how the ink has faded and its constituency altered, now appearing as if pencil has been meticulously and precisely overwritten in ink.

 

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Spotlight on the Slade – February 2016 update

Jenny MWedgbury17 February 2016

Anja Olofgörs, Social Constructs, 2015, © The Artist

Anja Olofgörs, Social Constructs, 2015, © The Artist

Acquisitions, prize-winning work and the continuing influence of the Slade collection

As UCL Art Museum’s Spotlight on the Slade project continues, I wanted to share two recent acquisitions, by two very different prize-winning Slade artists, studying and working almost a century apart: Jesse Dale Cast (1900-1976) and Anja Olofgörs (b.1987).

The acquisitions demonstrate not only the range of work within the Slade, but also how the collection continues to grow, recording the history of teaching and practice at the School, both through a prize system, which was instigated when the Slade was first established, and through subsequent gifts which support use of the collection. (more…)

Museum Week: Behind The Art

Helen RCobby27 March 2014

'Under Milk Wood' by Paula Rego, 1954, Oil on canvas

‘Under Milk Wood’ by Paula Rego, 1954, Oil on canvas

It’s Museum Week, which is proving to be a brilliant opportunity to get to know new galleries, explore a museum’s history and join in with celebrating the wonderful work that museums do – not to mention the art they have and the imaginative spaces they create!

There has been a different theme each day – and today it’s ‘Behind The Art’. Here at UCL Art Museum we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to rediscover some of the many female artists that studied at The Slade next door and whose work is part of the UCL Art Museum collections. We’re thinking Gwen John, Winifred Knights and Paula Rego.  (more…)