AboutUCL Art Museum is delighted to present Plastered, an exhibition about plaster and the casting process highlighting the sculpture models of the neoclassical artist John Flaxman (1755-1826). A pioneer during an age of industrialism, Flaxman was the first British sculptor to use the technique as a consistent part of his working practice, revealing early on the material's extraordinary versatility.
Displays offer a rare glimpse at Flaxman's methods by showing preliminary drawings, the back of models, and other studio work demonstrating the artist's inventive use of plaster throughout all stages of design. Examples include a model for a memorial to Georgiana, Countess of Spencer, with the artist's handprints smeared into and permanently set within the soft plaster at the back. Small-scale scenes of angels and mourning figures, all details for funerary memorials made later in marble, show Flaxman working out his compositions whilst striving to reduce detail to a bare minimum.
Shown alongside Flaxman's art will be more unusual applications of plaster pulled from UCL's stored collections, including Victorian death masks used for the early study of eugenics and casts of human pathological specimens from the Great Ormond Street Hospital Collection. Many of these macabre objects highlight the efficiency of plaster and its unique ability to capture fleeting moments in time.