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A Thwarted Dynasty

This group of ceramic busts was shown at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in spring 2013 as part of an exhibition entitled Marking the Line; Ceramics and Architecture. In this group I am exploring the idea that collecting on such an obsessional scale as Soane’s was a displacement activity of some kind. Soane came from a working class background and rose to great heights both in his practice and his social sphere, an achievement that was very difficult for someone from that background in those days. He was a difficult character in many ways, one who had fierce pride in his work, and he was very keen to establish an architectural dynasty putting great pressure on his sons to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately they were very reluctant. Only John Jnr made some attempts to learn the art to appease his father, while the younger son George defied his father and went into the theatre as a writer, eventually alienating his parents irrevocably. As a further expression of his need for recognition, Soane had commissioned a grand marble bust of himself from sculptor Sir Francis Chantry. Struck by the tragic story of this dysfunctional family, I made commemorative portraits of each family member, based on the Chantry memorial bust, as an attempt at reconciliation. This included Fanny the dog, who was a key member of the family in the way a pet can be when emotional contact breaks down.

Photos by Hélène Binet
From: Marking the Line curated by Joanna Bird

John Soane, Eliza Soane, George, John Jnr and Fanny the Dog at the Soane's Museum, 2013, ceramic
George and John Jnr at the Soane's Museum, 2013, ceramic
George and John Jnr at Port Eliot, 2013, ceramic
John and Eliza Soane at Port Eliot, 2013, ceramic
The Soane family at Pitzhanger Manor, 2013, ceramic
Fanny the Dog at Port Eliot, 2013, ceramic