Hero by Margaret M. Giles. Left: right three-quarters view. Right: rear.

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Margaret M. Giles's Hero compells the attention of those interested in the relation of gender and image (follow for photographic and other credits ). It has additional interest because it marks a turning point in the history of the New Sculpture, that brilliant period of British work in bronze and stone beween 1880 and 1910. This bronze statuette, which has the additional importance of being a major work by one of the new wave of women sculptors trained at the art schools in South Kensington during the early 1890s, exemplifies the ways a female artist newly entering what had been a male-dominated field challenged, partially rejected, and redefined male artistic and cultural traditions.

Since so little is known about Giles, I shall begin with a statement of what I have been able to discover about her life and art. Next, I shall briefly discuss the range of her work as a sculptor and place that within the context of contemporary changes in sculpture and the entrance of women in signifcant numbers into the art. The remainder of this discussion will concentrate upon the ways Hero reinterprets the figural tradition in a manner suited to the needs of the woman sculptor. After examining Giles's depiction of the nude in relation to those by contemprary sculptors, we shall examine Hero specifically in the light of iconographical tradition. In particular, we shall look at earlier versions of the Hero theme and the conceptual structure to which it belongs — the woman waiting by the water for the return of her man.


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Last modified 4 January 2005