Thomas Woolner: Seeing Sculpture Through Photography
5 Nov 2005 – 5 Feb 2006
Exhibition in Gallery 4
Best known for his affiliation to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Woolner’s sculpture has been largely forgotten, but new research shows that in the field of photography Woolner deserves to be remembered.
Focusing on two of his most famous sculptures - his ideal figure of ‘Love’, and his bust of Tennyson - this exhibition reveals Woolner as a sculptor at the forefront of photographic innovation.
At a time when etchings and woodcuts were still the dominant means of reproducing art works in the printed press, Woolner’s preference for photography as early as the 1850s signalled an innovative stance.
His association with the London Stereographic Company as well as some of the most fashionable London photographers of the day, demonstrates his awareness of - and desire to be identified with - the latest trends and developments in the medium.
Placing commissioned photographs against sculptures and other types of reproductions, this show provides an insight into how Woolner’s work was presented to the Victorian public.
Thomas Woolner (1825-1892) was the only sculptor-member of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This marginal position, and his somewhat erratic career, has meant that his work has neither been studied much for its own sake, nor within other contexts. Renowned particularly for his portrait busts in the 1850s and 1860s, Woolner’s work falls between the tail-end of neoclassicism and the beginning of the ‘New Sculpture’, a period often overlooked in the history of British sculpture.
This exhibition is the result of a fellowship project by American art historian Joanne Lukitsh, who was led to our Woolner archive through her interest in 19th-century photography. Her research has brought to light a number of surprising details that tell us not only about Woolner’s specific interest in photography, but highlight the significance of the medium as a strategy for self-promotion employed by Victorian sculptors.