Enfilade

A Visual Puzzle at the Yale Center for British Art

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on July 20, 2010

Notice of the exhibition appeared here in April, but now that the show is actually on view, here it is again:

Seeing Double: Portraits, Copies, and Exhibitions in 1820s London
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 24 June — 19 September 2010

John Scarlett Davis, "Interior of the British Institution Gallery" detail 1829 (YCBA)

In 1829, the young artist John Scarlett Davis sought to make a splash on the London art scene with his painting, Interior of the British Institution. An image of an art exhibition, the painting is also an elaborate visual puzzle. Seeing Double: Portraits, Copies and Exhibitions in 1820s London invites viewers to decode this puzzle and in the process explore the relationship between display and replication in early nineteenth-century Britain. Davis’s painting has long been recognized as a valuable record of an early nineteenth-century exhibition venue, representing in miniature works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, among others. What has less often been recognized is that the figures who chat amiably or stoop to examine canvases are themselves replicas of paintings: Davis copied the figures from pre-existing portraits, notably by Sir Thomas Lawrence. By examining this practice, the exhibition reveals hitherto unknown connections between works in the Center’s collection. Seeing Double has been organized by the Yale Center for British Art and curated by Catherine Roach, Postdoctoral Associate, Department of the History of Art, Cornell University. The organizing curator at the Center is Cassandra Albinson, Associate Curator of Paintings and Sculpture.

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