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  • DARWIN’S DREAM: The Significance of Painting and its Collection at the Royal College of Art 1948-1998

Thorp, Juliet, 2012, Thesis, DARWIN’S DREAM: The Significance of Painting and its Collection at the Royal College of Art 1948-1998 MPhil thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This thesis considers the significance of Painting at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and the value of the Collection that grew out of the work of the Painting Department. It reflects on Principal Robin Darwin’s perception that having works of art hanging on the walls of the College would help impart prestige and status to the institution and looks at how he embarked on building up the Collection with works by graduates of the Painting Department.

The research examines the history of the Painting Department and analyses the ways in which a changing post-World War II society affected the students who contributed their paintings to the Collection. The period of research starts when Darwin was appointed Principal in 1948, and concludes with Professor of Painting Paul Huxley’s retirement in 1998. This fifty year period covers decades when the work being produced in the Painting Department was very influential, such as the 1950s when Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and the Kitchen Sink painters attended the College, the 1960s with the birth of British Pop Art, through to times when painting was overshadowed by new media during the 1970s, the commercialisation of the art world in the 1980s and changes engendered in the practice of painting in the 1990s. I have researched educational reforms over this period to consider how they shaped the painters who studied at the RCA and looked at how the works accessioned to the Collection build up a narrative of the institution. I have considered what the paintings say about the artists that produced them and the institution in which they studied, who the teachers were that influenced the students, and how the Collection reflects the position of British painting post-World War II.

I conclude that, although the Collection is an uneven accumulation of works that has been built up in a haphazard fashion, it has helped to achieve Darwin’s dream of raising the status of the RCA. At the same time it is a valuable asset that expresses the importance of an august institution through the history it reveals and which, as well as providing distinction, has pedagogic significance and potential.

Qualification Name: MPhil
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W120 Painting
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2012 12:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2012 10:59
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1133

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