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The Immigrant Experience in Modern British Art


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Robert Maniura
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (60%) and three-hour examination (40%)

      Module description

      This module examines an important yet often overlooked aspect of modern British cultural history: the experience, reception and contribution of émigré artists to this country from the early twentieth century to the present day. Although the backgrounds of the artists covered will vary widely, certain leitmotifs will recur: notable among them, the ambivalent, often hostile, response of the 'host' culture to the newcomers; issues of 'otherness', displacement, dislocation and loss, if not outright trauma; racism and xenophobia versus internationalism; and the creative tensions between margins and mainstream, separatism and assimilation, isolation and integration.

      The more recent - and highly topical - concepts of transculturalism, globalisation, migratory aesthetics and cultural hybridity will also be considered, as will the significance of gender and sexuality as complicating factors.

      Indicative module content

      • Introductory session: history of immigration to this country
      • Survey of pre-modern émigré artists (sixteenth century to the late nineteenth century)
      • 'Whitechapel Boys' and others (Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Jacob Kramer etc.): early twentieth century generation of Jewish immigrant artists from Russia and Eastern Europe
      • 1930s influx of (mostly, but not exclusively) Jewish artists fleeing from Nazi Europe (most famously, Oskar Kokoschka, John Heartfield, Kurt Schwitters, Naum Gabo, and others)
      • Jewish artists who came to Britain as children: Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, and others
      • First generation of non-European immigrant artists (post-World War II, as consequence of demise of British Empire)
      • Politicisation of Black artists in the 1980s
      • 'Black women' artists
      • 1990s onwards: entering the mainstream? Mona Hatoum, Shirazeh Houshiary, Isaac Julien, Chris Ofili, Steve McQueen, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Yinka Shonibare, and others
      • Work of more recent Jewish artists (notably R.B.Kitaj) dealing with issues of diaspora and 'otherness'
      • New generation of younger British-based artists dealing with the immigrant/refugee experience