Artist, tower, books: the memory theatre of Richard Cockle Lucas

Willis Fleming, Harry (2016) Artist, tower, books: the memory theatre of Richard Cockle Lucas. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Richard Cockle Lucas (1800-1883) has been remembered for forging a Leonardo and marrying a fairy. This distorting vision, juxtaposed with his protean versatility and originality, makes Lucas an awkward subject for historiography to get a hold on. Lucas was a sculptor, printmaker, photographer, model maker, architect, performer, writer. From 1854, at Chilworth near Southampton he constructed two idiosyncratic Towers, each as his home, studio, gallery, and observatory. Proceeding from the thematic frame of Lucas as a tower builder and dweller, this study makes the first integrated examination of Lucas as a multimedia artist. It identifies that at the Tower(s) a major shift occurred in his practice: the placing of himself within the subject matter of his art, together with a preoccupation with notions of self, mind, and consciousness. Through the disciplinary sight lines of cultural history and the history of architecture in its broadest formulation (after Dana Arnold and Andrew Ballantyne), the study draws on conceptions of the relationship between architecture and metaphysical thought, notably Frances Yates and Gaston Bachelard on, respectively, magical and poetic space. The study conceptualises the realm of Lucas’s Tower and his ‘monumental’ books (scrapbooks and albums) collectively as a ‘memory theatre’. Employing this occult paradigm and spatial metaphor, it argues that the Tower was a strategic enterprise of knowledge and inspiration, self-memory and self-realisation. Lucas’s practice is found to raise intriguing questions about the dialectics between space, body, and mind in the nineteenth-century and beyond. Using Lucas’s untapped archive and writings, the main body of the study offers a layered series of findings and speculations around the themes of: nature, the view, and the miniature model; symbolism, mysticism, and (meta)fiction; and providence, posterity, and intersubjectivity. In the process, it brings to light connections with other noteworthy histories, such as Lucas’s work as a scale modeller for John Nash and with John Flaxman. In conclusion, the study suggests that Lucas is a significant and transitional creative figure who prefigured later developments and syntheses in the expanded and emerging fields of art and psychology. Finally, it exposes binary oppositions troubled by Lucas that persist through to the present-day within/between the natural sciences and the humanities, on issues of rationality, objectivity, truth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
B. > Theses
Item ID: 21400
Depositing User: Jennifer Basford
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2017 12:51
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 21:23

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