Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


History of Art


This dissertation brings together artists living and working in the East End of London since World War II whose art uses the particular connotations of its East End location to address the changing and often contested issue of British identity. Chapter 1 compares and contrasts Nigel Henderson’s photographs of the postwar East End neighborhood of Bethnal Green with scenes from Robert Hamer’s 1947 film It Always Rains on Sunday set in the same neighborhood to look for indications of how the media of film and photography might manifest visually the significant changes to the urban fabric of the East End of London in the immediate postwar period. Chapter 2 examines select works by Gilbert & George from the Red Morning and The Dirty Words series, both of 1977, and other untitled series made in 1978 and 1980 (Paki, Kitchener, Britisher, Patriots, Death, War, and Fighter) to hypothesize about the relationship between their art and issues of nationalism and identity on the eve of the Thatcher years. This chapter includes a coda in which I consider filmmaker Mike Leigh’s 1983 made-for-television film Meantime in relation to the works by Gilbert & George. Chapter 3 analyzes how the work of Rachel Whiteread preserves some trace of the once thriving Jewish community in the East End, while also manifesting the significant changes that have taken place in the postwar period. Where in the prior chapters, I turn to film as a point of reference and comparison, here I look to literature, specifically, two late nineteenth century novels by the Jewish East Ender Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People and The Big Bow Mystery, whose plots produce an uncanny echo when read in light of Whiteread’s work. Taken together, these three chapters create a portrait of the colony within that is East London in the postwar/postcolonial period.


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