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Genteel Mavericks

Hunter Hurtado, Shannon

Genteel Mavericks

Professional Women Sculptors in Victorian Britain

Series: Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts - Volume 27

Year of Publication: 2012

Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2012. XVIII, 330 pp., 49 b/w ill.
ISBN 978-3-0343-0756-7 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.500 kg, 1.102 lbs

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Book synopsis

Sculpture was no occupation for a lady in Victorian Britain. Yet between 1837 and 1901 the number of professional female sculptors increased sixteen-fold. The four principal women sculptors of that era are the focus of this book. Once known for successful careers marked by commissions from the royal family, public bodies and private individuals, they are forgotten now. This book brings them back to light, addressing who they were, how they negotiated middle-class expectations and what kind of impact they had on changing gender roles.
Based on their unpublished letters, papers and diaries coupled with contemporary portrayals of female sculptors by novelists, critics, essayists and colleagues, this is an unprecedented picture of the women sculptors’ personal experience of preparing for and conducting careers as well as the public’s perception of them. The author examines each woman’s ability to use her position within the historical and cultural context as a platform from which to instigate change. The analytical emphasis throughout is on the art of negotiation and the result is an interdisciplinary work that delves deeply into the experience of an undervalued cohort of artists who had a disproportionate influence on Victorian social norms.


Contents: Family matters: the effects of family circumstances and expectations upon women’s decision to sculpt – Carving out a career: acquiring training, managing business, balancing demands of home and studio – Making their way: self-promotion without social disapproval, choice of career advisors – Characteristics and convictions: reinstating their individual identities, acknowledging themselves as self-conscious agents – Critical appraisals: the quality of women’s sculpture assessed alongside quality of critics’ judgements – Hoydens or heroines: representation of women sculptors in popular fiction, journalism, advice literature – Impacts: upon Victorian art world and nineteenth-century social culture.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

Shannon Hunter Hurtado is an independent scholar who specializes in nineteenth-century British sculpture, particularly sculpture made by women. She teaches history of art at the University of Edinburgh and has been a researcher for the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association’s National Recording Project, Edinburgh volume. Previously, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.


«This book is a wonderful addition to the CISRA series and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in Victorian culture.» (Béatrice Laurent, Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens 78, 2013)


Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts. Vol. 27
Edited by J.B. Bullen