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UAL Research Online

Painting by Mouth: Art, Modernity and Disability. Bartram Hiles (1872-1927)

Roberts, Ann P. (2012) Painting by Mouth: Art, Modernity and Disability. Bartram Hiles (1872-1927). PhD thesis, University of the Arts London and University College Falmouth.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Roberts, Ann P.

The subject of this thesis is the Bristol artist, Bartram Hiles (1872-1927) who lost both arms in a tram accident at the age of eight and subsequently taught himself to draw and paint by mouth. Using the themes of art, modernity and disability, this thesis recovers Hiles’ career as a mouth-painting artist, not as biography but as a focused study located in nineteenth and early twentieth-century culture. Using disability studies as a principle point of reference, it does not draw on traditional medical and social models associated with this discipline. Instead, it employs a culturally located framework as its point of departure that also gives historical context to Hiles’ disability within the late Victorian and Edwardian period in which he was active as a professional artist.

Hiles is little known today and the study has been driven by primary archival research into his formal art education and professional career as a mouth-painting artist. Employing an inter-disciplinary approach, each chapter is structured as a specific historical, cultural and physical context in which to locate Hiles’ art practice and professional career. Such contexts include medicine and science, the periodical press, agency and support, art and design practice, celebrity culture and the Edwardian artists’ club. The thesis employs discourse and representation but also draws on material and visual cultures of both medicine and art for its analysis.
The study frames Hiles’ art practice within the modernity of the late nineteenth century as a transforming space to locate him as a modern subject who sought to re-interpret the act of painting. The thesis argues for Hiles to be seen as a modern man who used the opportunities afforded by modernity for individuals to re-make and re-fashion themselves, and to pursue new pictorial forms and spaces to exhibit his art. Negotiating the complexities of strategy and self-presentation, it positions Hiles as a figure of an increasingly commodified celebrity culture rather than a disabled man who led a life of marginalization.

From this analysis Hiles emerges as a man and an artist fully able to navigate the modern world, and whose disability and unconventional method of painting illuminates the ambivalences of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century towards difference, otherness and perceptions of normality.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

The full text of this thesis has been restricted at the request of the author. If you would like to access a copy of the thesis, please contact UAL Research Online.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: disabled artists; mouth-painting; Bartram Hiles
Date: August 2012
Funders: European Social Fund
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2013 12:04
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2024 15:47
Item ID: 6062
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/6062

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