Weighing Down the Landscape: The Quarry as a Site of Rural Modernity

Shaw, Samuel (2018). Weighing Down the Landscape: The Quarry as a Site of Rural Modernity. In: Bluemel, Kristin and McCluskey, Michael eds. Rural Modernity in Britain: A Critical Intervention. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 69–83.


Quarries are liminal spaces: sites of industry from which urban centres spring, largely situated in rural settings. For artists, quarries have always had a certain romance, not only as a space where examples of sculpture or great architectural projects began, but also as a subject in their own right. As this chapter argues, late nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists seem to have been especially attracted by quarries, treating them as a means of exploring modernity through the lens of rural romanticism.
Appreciating that there is no single way of categorising and representing quarries, the chapter nonetheless draws out many of the common themes to be found in paintings of quarries in the first half of the twentieth century, with a particular focus on William Rothenstein's 1904 painting 'The Deserted Quarry'.

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