Rachel Harrison


This thesis has been written with the intention of providing an account of the development of the visual arts at Dartington Hall in the inter-war period. Particular emphasis has been placed throughout on the role of Dorothy Elmhirst, the joint founder of the Dartington project, in the creation of one of Britain's most innovative experiments in rural regeneration in the twentieth century. Dorothy was a woman of considerable wealth, but her contribution to the Dartington enterprise extended beyond merely financial considerations. Her background as an American heiress enables, in the early stages of the thesis, an evaluation of her patronage of contemporary British art in the early thirties and an understanding of her commitment to social change, which found its ultimate expression at Dartington. Providing a wealth of previously unseen material, the thesis argues that Dartington's contribution to current art historical enquiry lies in the promotion of modem art on the estate and in the publication of The Visual Arts Survey, a comprehensive report on the position of the visual arts in England. The establishment of an efficient arts administration at Dartington was essential to the success of both these ventures, thus the thesis also documents the inception and expansion of the arts administration on the Dartington estate. In many ways, the achievements documented in this thesis are the result of the bringing together of the right people at the right time. Dorothy's belief in the central role of the artist in society prompted her to establish one of the largest privately funded enterprises in artistic experimentation in recent British history. Dartington's contribution to the visual arts in Britain in the inter-war period may be seen to encompass a wide range of issues relating to arts patronage. By addressing such concerns this thesis squarely locates the Dartington project within current art historical enquiry relating both to the promotion of modernism and discourses concerning arts funding in the post-war period.

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