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A Context of Commitment: The Sculpture of Betty Rea (No. 40)


“The future of art hangs on the future of civilisation. It is time artists began to think about what sort of future they want, and what they can do to get it.”

Betty Rea in her introduction to Five on Revolutionary Art (1935)

From the 1930s to the 1950s - a period defined by the rise of fascism, war in Europe and the onset of the Cold War - Rea was directly involved in revolutionary politics, with her commitment to social and humanitarian causes reflected in her artwork.

Consequently, Gillian Whiteley argues that understanding this historical framework of 'commitment' - in this context, meaning an active contribution to anti-Fascism and working towards a better society - is vital to understanding Rea's work.

In this essay, Whiteley looks at Rea's art and political engagement in the Thirties; her time spent working with and educating children during the war years; her Looking at People exhibitions of 1955 and 1957; and her later work with the sensual figure.

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