Highly regarded during her lifetime, Kathleen Scott’s reputation has been negated through a simplistic differentiation between supposedly ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ sculpture. Resisting this, sculpture historian David Getsy has highlighted Scott’s work as remarkable in its ‘commitment to the definitions of professional sculpture and for its continued efforts to work within these parameters in the face of a vibrant and burgeoning modernism.’ (1) At the beginning of the twentieth century the sculpted portrait bust was a major art form, produced by Britain’s leading artists; however it has since often been overlooked as an art object, regarded as ‘inscrutable or irrelevant’. (2) The friction between the genre’s conventions and the desire for individual likeness can sometimes be problematic: the sculpted portrait bust is both highly artificial, yet very ‘real’ in its three-dimensionality. However Scott’s work combines both the veracity of the photographic portrait with sculptural virtuosity. This paper will also examine how Scott herself was portrayed in illustrated journal articles. A link can be made between published photographs of her home and studio and a contemporary interest in art and the domestic, reflected in the ongoing promotion of sculpture for the home, realised to some extent in the early years of the century through the statuette, and in mid century via the Sculpture in the Home exhibitions. Scott’s portraiture established her prominence in British sculpture and demonstrated the convergence of realism and character with a Rodinesque fluidity of handling, her illustrious sitters ranging from writers, to politicians and royalty.
(1) Getsy, David, ‘The Identity of the Sculptor 1900–25’ in Sculpture in 20th Century Britain (Leeds, The Henry Moore Institute, 2003, p.13)
(2) Return to Life: A New Look at the Portrait Bust (Leeds, The Henry Moore Institute, 2000, pp.6-7)