A caricature of a sculptor

2011-02-25T11:57:58Z (GMT) by Colin Turner
This thesis is concerned with how the press has an influence on the reputation and success of an artist. It explores what factors are at work in making a particular artist and his work the subject of so much press attention, including written reviews, photographs, cartoons and caricatures. Jacob Epstein was the recipient of an extraordinary amount of newspaper attention, from his first public work in 1908, through to his death in 1959, but there has not yet been any detailed analysis of what it was that made stories about him or his sculptures such good copy. Some of his work was certainly controversial, challenging many of the established standards of decency of the day, but as an American and a Jew he was also the victim of bias and prejudice. Although a largely negative image was presented to the British public through the newspapers, it is clear that Epstein managed to exploit the publicity to further his career through sales and commissions. This thesis is an evidence-based analysis of the existing, flawed history of one of the most interesting sculptors of the first half of the twentieth century, allied to an introduction of previously unpublished, or overlooked, written and visual evidence. Chapter one deals with the question of Epstein's race and how this became such an intrinsic element of the way he was perceived, both as an artist and, ultimately, as an Englishman. To explain and illustrate the exceptional prurient interest of the press and public, chapter two reports on a close critical examination of the physical features of his most newsworthy creations, highlighting the previously unmentionable detailing. Woven into the thesis, throughout the text, are a number of cartoons and caricatures, serving as visual evidence of the arguments being addressed, while the final chapter explores specifically the unique and particular properties of this form of visual art, not least through their publication in the popular press.