The art of union and disunion in the Houses of Parliament, 1834-1928

Ford, James (2016) The art of union and disunion in the Houses of Parliament, 1834-1928. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the importance of the United Kingdom’s composition as a multinational state to the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament, constructed by Sir Charles Barry following the destruction of most of the old Palace of Westminster by fire in 1834. Over seven chapters, it examines the decorative schemes undertaken between the 1840s and 1860s by Barry and the Fine Arts Commission, followed by later, individual programmes, the last of which was completed in 1928.

This study develops the twin notions of the art of union and the art of disunion to analyse the complex relationship between the Union and Parliament’s decorative schemes. The art of union is used to identify the elements of the New Palace of Westminster’s planned or completed decoration that validated and promoted the Union. Meanwhile, the art of disunion is deployed as a means of analysing the works of art that caused disunity and division.

Examples of the art of union in the Houses of Parliament have led to it being described as a very British building. However, this thesis argues that this is an inadequate description. Though Scotland, Ireland and Wales are represented in the building’s decoration, it is England that dominates. Therefore, this study argues that Anglo-British is the most accurate term with which to describe the sense of national identity embodied by the Palace of Westminster. However, the Anglo-Britishness presented over the lengthy period covered in this thesis is not a consistent and homogenous vision, but one that is varied, complex and, at times, contradictory. There is also a clear development in the general form that it takes: beginning with a relatively inclusive Anglo-Britishness that gives some recognition to the UK nations other than England, it becomes increasingly Anglocentric and imperialist over the period examined.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Cullen, F.
Wood, J.
Keywords: Art, Parliament, National identity, Politics, United Kingdom, Britishness, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Palace of Westminster
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 35649
Depositing User: Ford, James
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 26 May 2017 04:27
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/35649

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