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Close encounters of the third kind : Hamo Thornycroft’s The Mower and Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’

Thomas, Jane



David Kennedy


This chapter applies the idea of a non-hierarchical, creative exchange of meaning to Hamo Thornycroft’s 1884 sculpture of The Mower, and its accompanying epigraph from Matthew Arnold’s 1866 elegy for the poet Arthur Hugh Clough: ‘Thyrsis’. The chapter argues that sculpture and epigraph, taken together, constitute a third intermedial artwork in which the compromised relationship between the aesthetic act and the desire to apprehend the ‘real’ is manifested through a complex series of textual and, more importantly, genre citations – including classicism, naturalism, realism, pastoral elegy and Romantic lyric. These coalesce and interrogate each other in this most ‘realistic’ and ‘democratic’ of Thornycroft’s sculptures to date, establishing a competitive and a co-relational dialogue that is enacted on and by the body of the artwork. Placed in the context of social, industrial and political developments in the later decades of the nineteenth century, sculpture and epigraph combine to reveal ethical, ideological, and moral dimensions that might otherwise remain hidden in what Stephen Cheeke has described as ‘the sensuous field of the visual’ and the logocentric pretensions of the verbal.


Thomas, J. (2018). Close encounters of the third kind : Hamo Thornycroft’s The Mower and Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’. In D. Kennedy, & R. Meek (Eds.), Ekphrastic Encounters (165-180). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 5, 2018
Publication Date Dec 5, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2020
Journal Ekphrastic encounters
Publisher Manchester University Press
Pages 165-180
Book Title Ekphrastic Encounters
Chapter Number 8
ISBN 9781526125798
Public URL
Publisher URL