Session on Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism at AAH 2012

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on January 26, 2012

A former Enfilade intern, Freya Gowrley, is organizing a session at this year’s AAH meeting at the Open University in Milton Keynes (29-31 March) with Viccy Coltman. The session, on ‘Conflicting Art Histories’, has its own website with presentation abstracts. The site raises an interesting question of how one might maximize the effectiveness of a conference session generally, along with the possibility that it might sometimes mean venturing beyond (or at least supplementing) the normal conference parameters of communication . . . -CH

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Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh), Taste à la mode: The consumption of foreignness in visual and material culture, 1740-80

This paper will examine the how the consumption of imported commodities functioned as a signifier of female respectability in the visual and material culture of the eighteenth century. A symbolic trope of singular importance depicting the monkey, tea equipage and black page boy was employed by artists first to portray, and eventually epitomise, the consumption of foreign luxuries by genteel female consumers. Such goods therefore played an active role in constructing – in terms of both practice and perception – the acquisitive habits of the female consumer.  Whilst emblematic of the consequential relationship between the consumption of cosmopolitan goods and the establishment of respectability in eighteenth-century polite culture, such objects were not only crucial to the construction of this fashionable gentility, but its satirical castigation. Via their connection with processes of imitation, fashionability and commodification, these consumables were posited as inherently gendered objects by eighteenth-century satirists, used to express contemporary fears over voracious female consumerism, effeminacy, and national contamination. Yet beyond this satirical function, the constitutive elements of this symbolic trio were also those actively adopted by the fashionable elite as the means by which to express their gentility. The specific combination of monkey, tea service and black page boy therefore constituted a potent visual language, capable at once of portraying the female consumption of foreignness, and forming an active commentary on the very same.

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Carly Collier (University of Warwick), British Artists and Early Italian Art during the Long Eighteenth-Century: Education, Expectations, the Influence of Contemporary Taste and the Grand Tour

As Shearer West’s 1999 essay made abundantly clear, the newly-founded Royal Academy was the locus for an enduring tension between xenomania and xenophobia from its inception in the mid-eighteenth century. That the institution’s early decades were overshadowed by the constant struggle between nationalism and cosmopolitanism – the desire to establish a national academy to evolve a British school, but the dependence on Italian art in general and the paradigmatic Italian academical model – is irrefutable.

My paper will explore this theme through the prism of the relationship between British artists and early Italian art c. 1770-1830. British taste during this era dictated that native artists looked to specific periods and artists to emulate – notably the ‘holy trinity’ of Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian, as well as seventeenth-century landscape and figurative masters such as Poussin and Claude Lorrain. Accordingly, there was very limited availability of visual and literary material in Britain relating to the works of artists outside of this canon of taste, and particularly the  Italian ‘primitives’ (those artists of the Tre– and Quattrocento). There is, however, evidence that British artists paid attention to early Italian art whilst travelling or residing in the country (Joshua Reynolds, George Romney and John Flaxman are all interesting examples), which in varying degrees served to facilitate the ‘rediscovery’ of this art for their colleagues back home. This paper shall first examine the status quo as regards art education and the influence of taste, before analysing how the largely under-explored relationship between British artists and early Italian art added a new dimension to the  “unwritten and unresolved conflict between nationalism and cosmopolitanism” present in the artistic institutions and practices of the period. Overall, this paper aims to demonstrate how fundamental the contributions of British artists were to the national understanding of the history of early Italian art and its bearing on constructions of Britain’s own artistic genesis.

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Dr Patsy Hely (School of Art, Australian National University), All Things Bright and Beautiful, and British

On holiday in Bath in 1760, the Reverend John Penrose wrote to his daughter describing a breakfast he attended:

‘the tables were spread with singular Neatness. Upon a Cloth white as Snow were ranged Coffee Cups, Tea Dishes of different sizes, Chocolate Cups, Tea Pots, and everything belonging to the Equipage of the Tea Table…’

The late eighteenth century in Britain saw a flowering of the ceramic arts with Wedgewood, Chelsea, Bow, Royal Worcester and others all producing very finely manufactured domestic objects. The use of these ceramic wares had quite quickly become naturalized at most levels of society over the century – in urban centres at least.

Imagine then the small earthenware cup – thick, crude-handled, unglazed – displayed amongst the colonial artefacts in the Museum of Sidney in Australia. Apart from bricks and clay pips, this cup is one of the first locally made ceramic objects in the colony. Dating from around 1790, two years after the British arrived in 1788, the cup represents one of the earliest attempts to manufacture the basic necessities of everyday life at Sydney Cove.

The type and variety the Reverend Penrose catalogues above suggests a marvelling at the miracle of skilled British manufacture, an admiration that similarly took hold in Australia. This paper will examine the ways in which eating and drinking implements arriving on transports or support ships in late 18th and early 19th century Australia acted to construct ideas about ‘Britishness’ in a colony on the other side of the world.

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Matthew Martin (Melbourne College of Divinity/National Gallery of Victoria), English Porcelain, Catholic Collectors

This paper will explore English luxury porcelain production as an area with the potential to cast light on the relationship between nationalism and cosmopolitanism in eighteenth-century British art.  The Chelsea factory, the leading eighteenth-century English luxury porcelain manufacturer, was, as Hilary Young has suggested, essentially a French manufactory operating in London; its proprietor Nicolas Sprimont was French, as were the majority of the artists and craftsmen working there.  Whilst much of the factory’s production was heavily imitative of porcelain produced at Meissen and Sèvres, Chelsea’s market was almost exclusively British and the advertising of its products was framed in terms of its superiority to German and French imports.  The association of Huguenots with the Chelsea factory suggests a significant role for confessional identity in the negotiation of an anti-Gallic stance in the factory’s market identity.  But despite the Protestant associations of many Chelsea personnel, a small but important group of sculptures produced at Chelsea in the late 1750s and 1760s employ explicitly Counter-reformation devotional imagery, including a Pietà group modelled by Joseph Willems, an example of which was owned by the 4th Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, a leading Recusant.  Based upon the Pietà in Notre Dame de Paris, Lord Clifford’s acquisition of this Chelsea group served both to mark his membership of a cosmopolitan aristocratic European Catholic culture, and through its status as an English luxury production, to signal his membership of the English elite.  Such an object thus expressed a uniquely English Catholic identity, at once nationalist and cosmopolitan.

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Dr Andrew Kennedy (School of Oriental and African Studies, London), Empire and nation in the topographical works of Thomas and William Daniell

This paper aims to analyse the pictorial and textual representation of empire and nation in two topographical series: Oriental Scenery (1795-1808), by Thomas and William Daniell, and  A Voyage Round Great Britain (1814-1825), by William Daniell and Richard Ayton.   My paper attempts to examine the ideological framework within which the Daniells’ representational strategies developed.  To do so, it will draw on some of the ideas about space and place in capitalist society put forward by Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey.

These writers propose that the capitalist social order creates an abstract, universal space with the aim of dominating particular places.  I argue that such a space is represented in the Daniells’ views, most of which feature an apparently straightforwardly lucid depiction of sublime and/or exotic objects through a limpid atmospheric medium.  Places shown in this way, are, I suggest, both homogenised and differentiated, domesticated and made strange, via the deployment of an encyclopaedic Enlightenment empiricism.  The work of homogenisation serves, then, to reinforce the notion of the power of the British state, whether in the far north of Scotland, or in the Indian subcontinent.   Yet some sense of heterogeneity must also be maintained, in order to dramatise the work of power in subordinating such diverse territories and places to its will.

In such a context, the device of the coastal voyage in the later series appears to be an excellent way to suture an abstract national and imperial space, conveniently defined by a natural boundary, onto real places.  But that project is threatened when some of those places and their inhabitants reveal a heterogeneity that is hard to assimilate.

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Jordan Mearns (University of Edinburgh), Strength vs. Sentiment: The Poems of Ossian and women artists in later eighteenth-century Britain

James Macpherson’s Poems of Ossian (1765) were simultaneously one of the most popular and most controversial literary sensations of eighteenth-century. While the body of existing literature relating to the poems and the literary debates they engendered is weighty, the artistic response to the poems, particularly in Britain, remains under-explored. In his consideration of Alexander Runciman’s Ossian’s Hall (1772—3) at Penicuik House, Midlothian, Martin Myrone has interpreted the poems as a vehicle intrinsically suited to the expression of spectacular historicized masculinity. This paper will show the extent to which Ossian had a dedicated female readership, and was depicted by a broad range of women artists including Angelica Kauffman and Maria Cosway and amateurs such as Lady Diana Beauclerk and Catherine Maria Fanshawe. Contrary to Myrone’s reading, women artists responded to the poems’ innovative sentimental idiom, producing scenes which conformed to the circumscribed range of acceptable female artistic practice. By examining a wide range of visual material I wish to suggest that Ossian provided a particularly apt text for female artists to engage with, which allowed for the exploration of gender roles and as a vehicle for the expression, not of raw masculinity, but scenes of refined and elegiac sentiment. A wider consideration of this paper will be the incorporation of Scottish subject-matter within the notional ‘British School’ of painting and its place in metropolitan exhibition culture.

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Dr John Bonehill (University of Glasgow), Loutherbourg and the ‘Spirit of Hogarth’

Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg’s The Troops at Warley-Camp, reviewed by his Majesty was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1780. It was one of a pair of paintings commemorating the king’s presence at a spectacular mock battle staged two years earlier, as part of defensive safeguards introduced to meet a threatened French invasion. On exhibition at William Chamber’s newly opened Somerset House, Loutherbourg’s painting featured as part of an array of militaristic and patriotic imagery relating to the ongoing war waged against rebellious American colonists and their new Continental allies. These included pictures that drew comparisons between the present day defence of the realm and historic precedents, as well as works celebrating the nation’s land and maritime forces, grand histories, ambitious, full-length portraits, and landscapes such as Loutherbourg’s painting of the camp at Warley. Critics responded warmly to Loutherbourg’s picture, struck by ‘the grandeur of the scene’ but also its ‘touches of humour’. Indeed, it was a fine blend of the patriotic and the comic, the documentary and the theatrical. While some critics of the day were dismissive of Loutherbourg’s ‘French pomposity’, judging his manner highly artificial, others admired how readily he had assimilated the cultural traditions of his adopted country. Loutherbourg’s talent for social satire was considered of a kind with that of a notable native precedent, whose art was widely identified as being expressive of the national character, the painter being thought to ‘possess the Humour and Spirit of Hogarth’.

This paper will situate Loutherbourg’s Troops at Warley-Camp and the artist’s companion picture in relation to a range of cultural and political concerns, including the conduct of the American War and the defensive measures intended to protect the nation’s coastlines from the threat of French invasion, if also the commemoration of these events in paint, especially as they shaped critics’ calls for a national school of landscape painting. A survey of Loutherbourg’s critical reception, especially that prompted by his painting of the king’s review of the troops, shows his appeal to those who looked to the ‘spirit of Hogarth’ at this moment of national crisis. Yet, there were of course a number of unresolved tensions in this championing of an art apparently free of the perceived pedantry of Continental tradition, not least in its rejection of the values that defined the doctrines of the institution where the picture was on display and which had determined Loutherbourg’s own schooling as an artist.

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John Richard Moores (University of York), War with France in English political prints, c. 1740-1815

Robin Simon’s Hogarth, France and British Art challenged the view of William Hogarth as Francophobe nationalist by emphasising his cosmopolitanism and placing his art within a Continental context. Though he was dismissive towards the genre, Hogarth had a profound influence on lower forms of political and social prints (or ‘caricatures’). Much like Hogarth’s output, such prints have been interpreted as projecting anti-Gallic attitudes. The so-called ‘golden age of caricature’ coincided with those years in which Gerald Newman and Linda Colley considered hostility towards the French to have contributed to the formation of national identity. Numerous political and social prints from this time focussed on France, yet most studies of this genre have concentrated on how the British portrayed themselves and each other. Those which have discussed prints on France have promoted the view that English perceptions of the French were essentially hostile.

Informed by war and rivalry as well as by trade, travel, and cultural exchange, the prints projected some positive characteristics onto the French ‘Other’, were often less concerned in lampooning the French than in undermining the personalities and policies of the ruling regime at home, they contain varying degrees of sympathy and affinity with the French, and are demonstrative of a relationship more distinct and intimate than that shared with any other nation. In times of conflict enmity was inevitably more apparent, but even then the prints did not necessarily promote an Anglo-French relationship defined by antagonism and derision.

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