Exhibition preview: Plastered, UCL Art Museum, London, until April 19 2013
A plaster pioneer during the industrial age celebrated for his mastery of graphic plans and models, John Flaxman was the first British sculptor to consistently use plaster casting, and is currently the subject of a major concurrent show at Ikon in Birmingham.
© Rob Eagle / UCL
His better-known designs are accompanied by some pretty unusual applications of his techniques here – Victorian death masks and human pathological specimens, including the cast of a ricket-stricken seven-year-old’s leg from the Great Ormond Street Hospital Collection, are among them.
The death masks, emerging from the vaults of University College London, were used for the early study of eugenics, illustrating the efficiency of plaster and its ability to capture transient stages.
Less macabre examples appear in the form of a model for a memorial to a Countess, as well as small-scale scenes of angels and mourning figures in designs made for later funerary memorials in marble.
This demonstrative tribute to his talent has been partly driven by the launch of the impressive new Octagon Gallery at the university, encompassing the reopening of the Flaxman Gallery, which contains Flaxman’s full-size plaster, St Michael Overcoming Satan.
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