26/06/2010 — 11/09/2010

Jacob Epstein and Blackpool

'Adam' being transported from London to Blackpool, 1939.

image courtesy the Local and Family History Centre, Blackpool Central Library


Jacob Epstein’s carving  ‘Adam’ was first shown in Blackpool during the 1939 summer holiday season. During this time Jacob Epstein was a household name, synonymous with the negative opinions aimed at modern art. His works of Biblical subjects incorporating nakedness and sexuality were sensationalised by the press.  The showing of 'Adam' was to be the start of a fascinating relationship between Epstein’s work and Blackpool that would stretch to 1961. 

The showing of more of Epstein's major carvings followed: 'Jacob and the Angel' in 1942, and by 1958 'Genesis',  ‘Consummatum Est’, 'Adam' and 'Jacob and the Angel' were displayed together in Louis Tussauds on the Promenade. Their showings have become regarded as being derogatory to artworks which now reside in major UK public collections and considered amongst the most important of the twentieth century.


Jacob Epstein and Blackpool looks back at these showings through a selection of the press coverage that was generated at the time to revaluate the events and reveal that they were not the freak shows at the fairground they have been branded by art critics and commentators in recent times, but a story of the clash between Modernist high art and popular culture.

Blackpool exhibited Epstein’s work when the art establishment would not, always proclaiming it to be great art. It brought its marketing and showmanship expertise to modern art and drew massive audiences by doing so. Epstein was top of the bill.


Installation images of Jacob Epstein and Blackpool can be seen here.


The exhibition is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.