Exhibition: Gainsborough and the Modern Woman

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, Member News by Editor on August 16, 2010

From Art Daily (19 July 2010) . . .

Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman
Cincinnati Art Museum, 18 September 2010 — 2 January 2011
San Diego Museum of Art, 29 January — 1 May 2011

Curated by Benedict Leca

Thomas Gainsborough, "Portrait of Ann Ford" (later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse), 1760 (Cincinnati Art Museum)

The portraits of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) made him perhaps the most famous British artist of the late eighteenth century. Nobles, statesmen, musicians and the range of men and women of the period’s merchant class all sat for him. But it is his portraits of notorious society women—widely considered among the greatest of the Western tradition—which attracted the most attention.

Eighteenth-century viewers appreciated these paintings differently than we do today. In his own time, Gainsborough’s portraits of actresses, performers and courtesans were seen as unconventional, if not radical, not only because of the type of woman they portrayed but also because of the unconventional way they were painted. “These stunning portraits not only give us a perspective on the history of portrait painting and celebrity, but also on the history of women’s progressive self-fashioning, which equally deserves art historical recognition. These are provocative women provocatively painted,” explains exhibition curator Benedict Leca.

Organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum in association with the San Diego Museum of Art, Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman is the first exhibition devoted to Thomas Gainsborough’s feminine portraiture, and the first to focus specifically on modernity and femininity in Georgian England from the perspective of Gainsborough’s groundbreaking portraits of women. Coinciding with the comprehensive cleaning and restoration of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s iconic Ann Ford (Mrs. Thicknesse), this exhibition unites a choice selection of thirteen paintings from renowned museum collections in the United States and Britain to illuminate the role that Gainsborough ’s extraordinary portraiture played in defining new, progressive feminine identities. Among others on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum, September 18, 2010 – January 2, 2011 will be Mrs. Siddons (National Gallery, London), Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan (National Gallery, Washington), Giovanna Baccelli (Tate Britain), Grace Dalrymple (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Viscountess Ligonier (Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens). The exhibition will also feature a small selection of period dresses from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s rich fashion arts and textile collection, thereby further contextualizing Gainsborough’s portraits while affording visitors a view of the material accessories of the “modern woman.”  . . .

The Art Daily article is available here»

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Exhibition catalogue: Benedict Leca, Aileen Ribeiro, and Amber Ludwig, Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman (London: Giles, 2010), ISBN: 9781904832850, $49.95.

This beautifully illustrated volume focuses specifically on Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits of well-known, “liberated,” society women, and the way in which the artist executed these special commissions. Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman draws us away from his predominant reputation as a landscape painter, and shows how such portraits were both an affirmation by Gainsborough of his own position in the artistic world of Georgian England, and of the desire of his sitters (including leading artists, musicians, actresses and intellectuals) to be seen as self-assured progressive women.

Author Benedict Leca takes as his starting point the Cincinnati Art Museum’s famous and newly restored portrait of Ann Ford (1760), widely considered the finest of the masterpiece portraits created by Gainsborough at Bath in the early 1760s. He addresses this early portrait as typifying Gainsborough’s comparatively permissive attitude with regard to how notorious women should be presented, and offers a compelling view of Gainsborough’s peculiar manner of painting, one that established the artist as the foremost portraitist of modern life. Featuring portraits from international collections, including Tate Britain, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J Paul Getty Museum and the National Gallery, London, this ground-breaking new volume also includes an essay by Aileen Ribeiro examining the portrait of Ann Ford in detail, and by Amber Ludwig discussing the role of feminine identity in 18th-century London.

Call for Papers: Society for French Historical Studies

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on August 16, 2010

57th Annual Meeting of The Society for French Historical Studies
The Citadel, Charleston, SC, 10-12 February 2011

Proposals due by 1 September 2010

The 57th Annual Society for French Historical Studies conference will be held at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina from Thursday, February 10, through Saturday, February 12, 2011 and will be hosted by The Citadel.  Featured speakers include Dena Goodman (University of Michigan) and Sylvain Venayre (Université de Paris I). Featured events include a plenary session and reception Friday evening at The Citadel and a banquet on Saturday evening. Additional outings on Sunday morning February 13 to Fort Sumter and Drayton Hall Plantation, will be organized.

The program committee will make every effort to combine single papers into coherent panels, but we encourage individuals to organize complete panels composed of two or (preferably) three papers, with a chair and commentator. Roundtables and other formats will also be considered. Please do not send proposals for papers that have already been presented or that are scheduled for presentation at other conferences, or that have already been published. All conference participants must be members in good standing of SFHS at the time of the conference. (more…)