Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Considering National Art from a Distance: Kineton Parkes and His Reflections on Contemporary Sculpture Made in Spain

Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Considering National Art from a Distance: Kineton Parkes and His Reflections on Contemporary Sculpture Made in Spain

Article excerpt

Little has been published in Spain concerning the life and works of the English scholar Kineton Parkes (1865-1938). In spite of being responsible for a set of diverse and interesting contributions on the topic of Iberian sculpture, he remains practically unknown in the country, although his books are quite widely quoted in studies of British sculpture of the 1920s and early 1930s in the United Kingdom.1 However, British scholars have paid only scant attention to his thoughts on Iberian sculpture and very little is known in terms of his biography or indeed of his working methods, particularly in relation to his art historical approach.2 Kineton Parkes was a versatile editor and writer, producing novels, essays on the visual arts, literature and politics, plays and poetry. During the course of his career he demonstrated a wide range of cultural interests although he was particularly keen on contemporary sculpture. His two main contributions in this area are Sculpture of To-Day (1921) (fig. 1) and The Art of Carved Sculpture (1931); both books contain information about and photographs of the works of living sculptors from Europe, the US and Japan.3 Parkes had a clear predilection for traditional artists and a penchant for the representation of the feminine form in sculptural work. However, his books and articles cover an extensive selection of figurative artists, including a number who are now practically forgotten. As will be argued in this article, Kineton Parkes's texts on sculpture are unique in showing how sculpture made in Spain was perceived in the 1920s in Britain. Moreover, his contributions help us to gauge the extent to which Spanish sculptors were present on the international scene at this date. In other words, his books provide a unique window on to Iberian sculpture in the early twentieth century from the outside.4

There are currently no published biographies or studies of Parkes in either the Anglophone or Hispanic worlds. His reflections on a number of British and Irish sculptors have been included in the online database Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, and this constitutes one of the most important current English-language sources in which Parkes's ideas on sculpture continue to be cited.5 However, as previously stated, his interpretation of Spanish sculptors has never been studied. Although he demonstrated an outstanding knowledge of Spanish and, more particularly, Catalan sculpture throughout his written oeuvre, the information that he gathered and the research that he conducted still need to be analysed in order to assess his contribution to the comprehension of Spanish art beyond Spain.6

Although biographical information concerning Kineton Parkes is of Leek for more than twenty years, contributing to its development and being involved with its cultural life. He finally moved to London in 1912 and lived there until his death at his home in Elvaston Place, South Kensington on 17 April 1938. surprisingly meagre, we know that he was born on 18 January 1865 in Aston Manor, Warwickshire, to William and Ann Parkes, and that his upbringing was broadly middle class.7 He was christened William Kineton Parkes but known throughout his professional career as Kineton Parkes. He studied at the King Edward VI Grammar School and at Mason Science College in Birmingham, a city where he also took up his first occupation as a merchant's clerk. He was later to describe himself as a journalist, as declared on the occasion of his wedding to Margaret Ann Simpson in Islington in 1889. The couple had two sons, Gabriel (1891-1978) and Maxwell (1892-1933), but neither was to continue the scholarly activities of their father. Parkes's involvement with the visual arts increased in 1892 when he was appointed librarian and curator at the Nicholson Institute of Leek, Staffordshire, an art museum with a collection of paintings, ceramics and local embroideries. He remained focused on the Institute and on the town

Before the publication of Sculpture of To-Day and The Art of Carved Sculpture, Kineton Parkes had already produced several books and articles on art. …

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