Mavericks of Empire

Image for Mavericks of EmpireNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 2 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

By the middle of the 18th century, Britain was in possession of a vast empire. It required a new way of seeing ourselves and so we turned to the statues of ancient Greece and Rome to project the secular power and glory of the British Empire.

The message was clear: Britain was the new Rome, our generals and politicians on a par with the heroes of the ancient world. The flood of funds, both public and private, into sculptural projects unleashed a new golden age, yet it was also a remarkably unorthodox one. The greatest sculptors of the 18th and 19th centuries were those mavericks who bucked prevailing trends - geniuses like John Flaxman, Francis Chantrey and Alfred Gilbert.

Alastair Sooke tells the story of these mavericks and reveals the extraordinary technical breakthroughs behind their key works: carving in marble with a pointer machine and the primal power of the lost-wax technique.

  • BBC Four: Focus on Sculpture Season

    BBC Four: Focus on Sculpture Season

    BBC Four shines a light on one of the oldest and most treasured art forms - sculpture - in this series of programmes.

    Go to the Focus on Sculpture Season website
  • BBC Archive: British Sculptors Collection

    BBC Archive: British Sculptors Collection

    In association with the BBC Four Focus on Sculpture Season, this collection explores the work of a series of influential British sculptors.

    Go to the BBC Archive: British Sculptors Collection website
  • BBC Learning Zone Broadband: Degas' sculpture 'Little Dancer'

    BBC Learning Zone Broadband: Degas' sculpture 'Little Dancer'

    A short video introduction and exploration of how Degas' famous wax sculpture of The Little Dancer was re-created in bronze by Albino Palazzolo after Degas' death. A start to finish demonstration of the lost wax process which was used to cast the bronze figure. Close up footage of the process taking place to produce an identical sculpture in a new material.

    Watch the lost-wax technique on Learning Zone Broadband
  • BBC TV blog

    BBC TV blog

    Presenter Alastair Sooke on why he wants British sculpture to reclaim its rightful place in the arts world: "It saddens me that sculptors such as Flaxman, Chantrey and Alfred Gilbert (who designed Eros in Piccadilly Circus) have been largely forgotten."

    Read and comment on Alastair's post at the BBC TV blog


Series Producer
Mark Halliley
Alastair Sooke
Mark Halliley
Executive Producer
Jonty Claypole


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