Chloe Sharpe 2015

History of Art, University of York, UK

Cemetery sculpture outside the cemetery: Pre- and after-lives of Spanish funerary sculpture c.1900-1922

A focus on the physical context of the cemetery has both shaped and restricted the way in which Spanish cemetery sculpture has been understood until now. My paper considers the cemetery as a changing and expanding exhibition space with unique characteristics, in which the sculptor’s identity was erased in favour of the deceased, and in which most viewers of the sculptures were not predominantly motivated by artistic appreciation. I explore how sculptors sought to compensate for this by exhibiting these monuments in more conventional art spaces, in particular national and international exhibitions, often to great acclaim. Preparatory plaster works, sculptural fragments and variants were all shown, allowing the dissemination of the sculptural model both before and after the monument itself was installed in the cemetery. In several instances, the Spanish state purchased the prizewinning work for display in the National Modern Art Museum, adding a further spatial context for the work. Only in the unique case of Julio Antonio’s Lemonier monument, completed in 1919 when the young sculptor was himself dying, did the identity of the artist and the deceased became so conflated in the public imagination that, following a theatrical display of the sculpture in an exclusive exhibition, the sculpture entered a museum and never made it to the cemetery.  Through this and other selected case studies, I analyse how the differences in form, function and spectatorship between these contrasting spaces significantly affect the meaning and interpretation of cemetery sculpture.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract