Westwood on the Wallace: ‘A Jewel Box for Jewels’

Posted in today in light of the 18th century by Editor on November 19, 2009

Hearing British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood side with “culture” over “consumerism” and observe that the central figure in Fragonard’s The Swing is “not wearing any knickers” may not offer the most insightful glimpses into the eighteenth-century, but this YouTube clip perhaps still provides an interesting example of the connections between contemporary fashion and the French Rococo. That it appears on the Wallace’s own website also speaks to the museum’s marketing strategies (for all of the similarities between the Wallace and the Frick, it’s more difficult to imagine the venerable New York institution adopting such an approach). Depending upon your state of mind, the video can be just wonderfully entertaining.

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Qu’est ce que la vie?

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on November 18, 2009

Call for Papers: Forms of Life in the Eighteenth Century
Indiana University, Bloomington — Eighteenth-Century Workshop, 12-14 May 2010

Proposals due by 8 January 2010

129787018885_2862The Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University is pleased to announce the ninth Bloomington Eighteenth-Century Workshop, to be held on May 12-14, 2010. The workshop is part of a series of annual interdisciplinary events that has been running since 2002, with 12-15 scholars presenting and discussing papers on a broad topic in a congenial setting. Our topic for 2010 is “The Forms of Life.”  We’d like to consider the implications of the eighteenth-century debate about the nature of life and the turn to vitalist proposals of an animating force, broadening beyond the discourses of physiology and the natural sciences, where many of these ideas originate, to consider their connections elsewhere in the period. Why does the idea of a life force emerge (or re-emerge) at this moment? How are living forms distinguished from each other? What sorts of decisions create the hierarchies of animate forms (and, for instance, what gets called “animal”)? Which lives matter and which don’t? How might we reconsider eighteenth-century answers to these questions in light of twenty-first-century rethinking of life and animality? How is the line drawn distinguishing the living and the non-living, animate being and thing? Participants might also consider the implications of contemporary thinking about life for the discourse of political economy, in its treatment of populations, masses, collective life and the role of hunger in history and also for developments in the religious sphere. One might also turn to the numerous Pygmalionic fantasies of animation in art and criticism, from “tableaux vivants,” illuminated statuary, life-like automata and still lives to critical pronouncements on the living body as the highest achievement of true art. (more…)

Penelope Curtis Appointed New Tate Britain Director

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on November 17, 2009

Last week Tate Britain announced the appointment of Dr. Penelope Curtis as its new Director. A specialist in twentieth-century sculpture, Curtis reinforces the institution’s strong modern and contemporary interests, though, of course, the museum aims to address the history of British art from 1500 to the present (with important eighteenth-century holdings). Perhaps the small show on David Garrick’s circle, Subject/Sitter/Maker, and the more ambitious thematic exhibition, Sculpture in Painting (covering the period from 1500 to the present) provide a sense of her work within the context of an institution dedicated to sculpture. Writing in The Guardian, Charlotte Higgins addresses various challenges Curtis may face. As noted in the Tate’s official press release from 11 November 2009:

Dr. Penelope Curtis; photo from BBC News

Dr Curtis (48) has been Curator of the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds since 1999 where she has been responsible for developing an acclaimed and distinctive programme of exhibitions, presenting sculpture of all periods. Alongside this she has also overseen the development of the Leeds collections, with the acquisition of significant works by Rodin, Epstein and Calder as well as contemporary artists such as Martin Boyce and Eva Rothschild, and has built up a unique archive of sculptors’ papers.

Joining Leeds Museums & Galleries in 1994 as Head of the Henry Moore Centre for the study of sculpture, she led its transformation into the Henry Moore Institute, where research and collections have played an important role alongside the exhibitions programme. Previously she was the first Exhibitions Curator at Tate Liverpool when it opened in 1988 where she was closely involved with Tate’s British collections. Major exhibitions she has curated include Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 1994 and the current exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute Sculpture in Painting.

Penelope Curtis et al, "Sculpture in Painting: The Representation of Sculpture in Painting from Titian to the Present" (2009), 144 pages, £20.00

Penelope studied Modern History at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1979-1982) followed by a Masters and Ph.D. at the Courtauld Institute of Art (1983-89). She is an established scholar and author with particular interest in twentieth-century British art. Her publications include Sculpture 1900-1945 in the Oxford History of Art (Oxford 1999) and Patio & Pavilion: The Place of Sculpture in Modern Architecture (Ridinghouse/Getty 2007). She was on the British Council Committee for the Venice Biennale in 2008 and a member of the Turner Prize Jury in 1997.  She is currently on the Advisory Committee for the Government Art Collection and a member of Art Commissions Committee for the Imperial War Museum.

Penelope Curtis said, “I am delighted to be appointed Director of Tate Britain which has a unique remit – historic and contemporary, national and international – and look forward to exploring and expanding those areas.”

Tate Director, Sir Nicholas Serota, said, “Penelope Curtis has made an outstanding contribution to the study of sculpture and especially to our understanding of British sculpture in the twentieth century. I am delighted that she will bring her scholarship and original vision to the presentation of British art at Tate Britain.”

Curtis will take up the appointment of Director, Tate Britain in April 2010.

CAA’s Call for Dissertation Listings

Posted in graduate students by Editor on November 17, 2009

From the November issue of CAA News:

Dissertation Listings
Due by 15 January 2010

Dissertation titles in art history and visual studies from US and Canadian institutions, both completed and in progress, are published annually on the caa.reviews website, making them available through web searches. Dissertations formerly appeared in the June issue of The Art Bulletin and on the CAA website.

PhD-granting institutions may send a list of doctoral students’ dissertation titles to dissertations@collegeart.org. Full instructions regarding the format of listings can be found here. CAA does not accept listings from individuals. Improperly formatted lists will be returned to sender. For more information, please write to the above email address. Deadline: January 15, 2010.

For a sample of the most recent listings, click here»

Revisiting the Gaze

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on November 16, 2009

The Eighteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Group at CUNY invites you to a talk at the Graduate Center in New York on Friday, 20 November 2009 at 2pm:

Rivka Swenson, Assistant Professor of English (Virginia Commonwealth University),
‘The Eye, in this Respect, is a Female’: Subjects, Objects, and the Eighteenth-Century Gaze
5414, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

Yinka Shonibare in DC

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on November 16, 2009

Yinka Shonibare, MBE
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., 10 November 2009 — 7 March 2010

Curated by Rachel Kent


Yinka Shonibare, "The Swing (After Fragonard)," 2001


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, "The Swing," 1767 (London: Wallace Collection)

This morning on NPR’s Morning Edition, Susan Stamberg profiled the Yinka Shonibare exhibition now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (it was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney). Writing in The New York Times (17 June 2009) of the show when it was at the Brooklyn Museum this past summer, Deborah Sontag described Shonibare as an “erudite and wide-ranging” artist, whom


Rachel Kent

at 47, is a senior figure in the British art world but one who intentionally eludes easy categorization. A disabled black artist who continuously challenges assumptions and stereotypes — “That’s the point of my work really,” he said — Mr. Shonibare makes art that is sumptuously aesthetic and often wickedly funny. When he deals with pithy matters like race, class, disability, colonialism and war, he does so deftly and often indirectly. “I don’t produce propaganda art,” he said. “I’m more interested in the poetic than the didactic.”

While many of the works address contemporary issues through Victorian conventions, there are intriguing eighteenth-century references, too — including this reworking of Fragonard’s Swing.

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Call for Papers: Scottish Studies Conference

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on November 16, 2009

Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society
Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, 24-27 June 2010

Proposals Due by 15 December 2009

The Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society (ECSSS) is seeking proposals for 20-minute papers or complete panels for its annual conference, which will be held at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 24-27 June 2010. This year’s topic is Reid, Cullen and Smith: The Science of Mind and Body in the Scottish Enlightenment; but, as always, the society is happy to receive proposals on all things pertaining to the Scottish eighteenth century, even if they don’t directly address the conference theme. Please send abstracts for papers or complete panels by December 15, 2009 to Richard Sher by email (rbsher6@gmail.com) or by mail to the address following:

Richard B. Sher
Exec. Secretary, ECSSS
New Jersey Institute of Technology
University Heights
Newark, NJ 07102-1982 USA

Etc, Etc.

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 15, 2009

39853773Umberto Eco served as guest-curator for the Louvre’s current exhibition Vertige de la Liste (Vertigo of Lists), on view until December 13. The scholar’s celebrity status has garnered lots of attention for the show (in addition to being taken up by the Associated Press, it’s been covered by Spiegel, Salon, and L’Express). The publisher’s description of the book accompanying the show, calls Eco “a modern-day Diderot,” explaining that here he “examines the Western mind’s predilection for list-making and the encyclopedic.” With material ranging from ancient and medieval lists (Homeric catalogues and lists of saints) to early modern “catalogues of plants [and] collections of art,” the eighteenth century would seem like a crucial period, and there is apparently at least one painting by Panini included. Still, for all of the talk of lists, one that seems to be missing (even from the Louvre’s site) is an exhibition checklist. Those of us who are unable to see the show should, however, have a better sense of its contents soon enough; the English edition of The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay is schedule for publication on November 17.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Vertige de la Liste
Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2 November — 13 December 2009

The following account of the exhibition comes from Cristina Carrillo De Albornoz’s coverage in The Art Newspaper:

After Robert Badinter, Toni Morrison, Anselm Kiefer and Pierre Boulez, Umberto Eco is the next special guest curator of the Louvre. A noted historian and semiotician before he brought these sensibilities to bear on major novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, Eco has spent almost two years in residence at the Louvre. His chosen subject is “The Infinity of Lists”, a tour through art, literature and music based on the theme of lists and motivated by his fascination with numbers (until 13 December). “The subject of lists has been a theme of many writers from Homer onwards. My great challenge was to transfer it to painting and music and to see whether I could find equivalents in the Louvre, because frankly when I suggested the subject I had no idea how I would write about visual lists,” says Eco.

“The starting point for my ‘list of lists’ was Homer’s Iliad: firstly the creation of Achilles’ shield by Hephaestus, which not only symbolises perfect form but is in itself a work of art on which is engraved what is considered an allegory of the creation of the universe, an overall vision of Homer’s world. And secondly, the part where he lists all the ships leaving for the Trojan war.” Eco plays with these two opposing dimensions—perfect form and the list—in an attempt to rationalise the world. “The shield of Achilles is the epiphany of form, and every picture in an artist’s search for that form is a shield of Achilles,” concludes Eco. “Behind each list is the sense of ineffability.”

This impulse has recurred through the ages from music to literature to art. Eco refers to this obsession itself as a “giddiness of lists” but shows how in the right hands it can be a “poetics of catalogues.” From medieval reliquaries to Andy Warhol’s compulsive collecting, Umberto Eco reflects in his inimitably inspiring way on how such catalogues mirror the spirit of their times. . . .

For the full article, click here»

Full Circle: French Neoclassicism in Greece

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 14, 2009

From the website of the National Gallery in Athens:

Le goût à la grecque – The Birth of Neoclassicism in France: Masterpieces from the Louvre
National Gallery, Athens, 28 September 2009 — 11 January 2010

The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, tapestries, drawings and prints, as well as furniture and miscellaneous objects, such as candlesticks, silverware and porcelain, vases, snuff boxes, watches (by Joseph-Marie Vien, Hubert Robert, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Louis Jean-François Lagrenée, Louis-Claude Vassé, Jean-Jacques Caffieri, Auguste Pajou, Jean-Charles Delafosse, René Dubois etc.). The exhibition spans the period of the reign of Louis XV, which marked the transition from the highly ornamental Rococo style to a classicizing artistic trend, inspired by the Greek antiquity. Excavations in southern Italy, the subsequent interest in a more systematic approach and classification of the excavation material and of the art of antiquity, as reflected in numerous relevant publications, along with the intellectual atmosphere of the Enlightenment, are some of the factors that contributed to the shaping of this new artistic style. The material on display is organised in sections which correspond to the artistic predilections of eminent society members of the period, in which a new taste emerged: le goût à la grecque.

French Drawings in D.C.

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 13, 2009

It’s shaping up to be quite an autumn for French drawing exhibitions in the United States. In addition to the shows at the Getty, the Frick, and the Morgan, the National Gallery presents a sampling from its permanent collection. As noted in a press release from the museum’s website:

Renaissance to Revolution: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Art, 1500–1800
National Gallery, Washington D.C., 1 October 2009 — 31 January 2010

Margaret Grasselli, $75

Margaret Grasselli, ISBN 978-1848220430

Some 135 of the most significant and beautiful drawings made over a period of three centuries by the best French artists working at home and abroad and by foreign artists working in France will be on view in Renaissance to Revolution: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Art, 1500–1800 in the Gallery’s West Building from October 1, 2009, through January 31, 2010. This is the first comprehensive exhibition and catalogue to focus on the Gallery’s permanent collection of French old master drawings, which is remarkable for its breadth, depth, and individual masterpieces. “One of the true glories of the National Gallery of Art’s holdings of graphic art is its outstanding collection of French old master drawings,” said Earl Powell, director, National Gallery of Art. “The exhibition Renaissance to Revolution and the accompanying catalogue celebrate the singular originality, elegance, and spirit of French draftsmanship.”


Antoine Coypel, "Seated Faun," 1700/1705, red and black chalk heightened with white chalk on blue paper, 16 x 11 inches (DC: NGA)

Among the National Gallery of Art’s extensive holdings of approximately 100,000 works on paper, the collection of 6,000 European drawings includes more than 900 French old master drawings which stand out as a particular treasure. The French group has deep roots in the earliest days of the museum’s existence, with the first of these works arriving in 1942, just a year after the Gallery opened its doors to the public. Over the next 67 years, thanks to the generosity of innumerable donors, the collection has evolved into one the Gallery’s strongest and most comprehensive, and one of the finest in the Western Hemisphere.

Organized chronologically, Renaissance to Revolution presents a visual journey through the development of drawing in France, from its first flowering during the Renaissance through its neoclassical incarnation during the political and social upheavals of the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. Lorrain, and Antoine Watteau, as well as many less well-known artists. All major stylistic trends and many of the greatest and best-known artists from these centuries are represented by a rich array of works executed in a variety of styles and media and covering a wide range of functions, subjects, and genres. . . .


François-André Vincent, "The Drawing Lesson," 1777, brush and brown wash over graphite, 13 x 15 inches (DC: NGA)

Within the exceptionally rich collection of eighteenth-century drawings, the major artists—Boucher, Fragonard, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin, Hubert Robert, and Watteau, among others—are each represented by several works of outstanding quality. Some magnificent pieces by less familiar masters are featured as well, including François-André Vincent’s Drawing Lesson (1777), arguably the most perfect representation of eighteenth-century French elegance, taste, and gallantry; Étienne-Louis Boullée’s monumental neoclassical design for a metropolitan church from 1780/1781; and a large and beautiful pastoral scene executed in pastel and gouache, Shepherds Resting by a Stream (1779) by Jean-Baptiste Pillement. Also noteworthy is a striking group of portraits by several of the leading pastellists of the period, including outstanding examples by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, as well as a particularly dashing portrait of a young woman by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard from 1787. One of the youngest drawings in the exhibition is the neoclassical portrait Thirius de Pautrizel (1795) by David, an active participant in the revolution, made when he was imprisoned for his radical politics.

A particular strength within the Gallery’s collection of French drawings is the genre of book illustration. This is represented throughout the exhibition beginning with the work by Poyet and includes distinctive pieces by such famous masters as Boucher, Fragonard, Jean-Michel Moreau the Younger, and Saint-Aubin, as well as outstanding examples by other supremely gifted but less widely known artists, such as Hubert-François Gravelot and Charles Eisen.

Margaret Morgan Grasselli, curator of old master drawings, National Gallery of Art, is curator of the exhibition. Published by the National Gallery of Art in association with Lund Humphries, Renaissance to Revolution: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Art, 1500-1800 features an introductory essay and comprehensive entries on the exhibited drawings with 260 full-color illustrations.

On Sunday, 13 December 2009, at 2pm, Grasselli will deliver the lecture Playing Favorites: A Personal Selection of French Drawings from the National Gallery of Art and sign copies of the catalogue.

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