Empire

Here are three sketches using ink and water, undertaken in half an hour during a family outing then rebuilt in conte crayon later in the day.

Rabindranath Tagore, who, I learn, reshaped Bengali poetry and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, is the named  sitter for Jacob Epstein’s bronze bust.

Not so Marguerite Milward’s models: anonymous “dancing girl” and “Moorish camel driver” viewed as ethnographic types for the catalogue of humanity.  Social anthropology played twin roles in the twentieth century, exploring and understanding the cultural diversity of our one species and contributing to the hierarchical racial concepts that are the cornerstone of Empire.

A source on the net tells me that Milward, a rare woman sculptor, was Tagore’s guest for a time, invited to teach her craft and vision, and apparently playing a role in shaping the development of modern Indian art.

These busts are part of The Past is Now display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  In a few simple exhibits, a discarded phone, a Birmingham-made bicycle, it shows graphically that the past is indeed now and the waxen cold hand of Empire reaches yet from the vault.

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