5 October 2019— Spring 2021

Being Human: An exhibition of modern sculpture

Can art capture what it is to be human?

Being Human explores how modern sculptors have treated the human figure, and, by extension, human emotion.

Selected from the museum’s collection, the exhibition focuses on changing models of beauty, identity, sexuality and existential angst in the 20th century.

Being Human features early modern experimentation by Antoine Bourdelle to 20th century modernism from Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Jacob Epstein and Willhem Lehmbruck.

At the heart of the exhibition are the so-called ‘Geometry of Fear’ sculptors: Lynn Chadwick, Ken Armitage, Reg Butler and Bernard Meadows. These artists lived through the Second World War and produced tortured, twisted forms conveying the horror of war and perhaps the guilt of having survived.

These examples appear alongside work by fellow British sculptors Frank Dobson, Hubert Dalwood, Elisabeth Frink and Ralph Brown as well as new acquisitions by Yeesookyung and Wood and Harrison to explore how sculpture embodies the human form. Mary Reid Kelley’s moving image piece This is Offal poses questions about our relationship to the body.


This online version of the exhibition is arranged by theme as follows:

It also provides:

A catalogue of the exhibition is available to purchase (subject to availability) through our online museum shop: purchase the Being Human exhibition catalogue


A bronze sub-rectangular sculpture with wide ripples and folds.


Bristol Culture & Creative Industries are very grateful to Sansom & Company for the generous production of the Being Human exhibition catalogue, with special thanks to Clara Hudson and Angela Sansom. The publication is dedicated to John Sansom (1937-2019) prolific Bristol publisher, founder of Redcliffe Press and Sansom & Company, who awakened an interest in the city, its heritage and the arts.

For extra financial support with the catalogue we are grateful to Simon Baker.