Happy Birthday, Sir Joshua!

Posted in anniversaries by Editor on July 16, 2013

Joshua Reynolds, Self-portrait, ca.1747-49 (London: National Portrait Gallery). Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Joshua Reynolds, Self-portrait, ca. 1747–49 (London: National
Portrait Gallery). Image from Wikimedia Commons

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To mark the birthday of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92), who would turn 290 today, I draw readers’ attention to this blog posting from the material culture seminar series organized by CRASSH at the University of Cambridge. Katy Barrett summarizes presentations made by Matthew Hunter and Mark Hallett on June 11, each of whom addressed Reynolds’s output under the larger rubric of ‘painted things’. Audio is available here»

Recent TLS Reviews (5 July 2013)

Posted in books, exhibitions, reviews by Editor on July 16, 2013

The eighteenth century in The Times Literary Supplement (5 July 2013). . .

Angus Trumble, “Six Half-Lengths: Review of James Stourton and Charles Sebag-Montefiore, The British as Art Collectors, From the Tudors to the Present (Scala, 2012),” TLS (5 July 2013), pp. 3-4.

14095. . . The British as Art Collectors, liberally and beautifully illustrated, sets out the history of the art-collecting impulse in Britain from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the present. Shaping it into four densely packed, chronological sections, James Stourton and Charles Sebag-Montefiore deal, first, with “Royalty” (in other words, collecting at Court, above all the assembly and dispersal of the superb collection of King Charles I at Whitehall); “Aristocracy” (the principally eighteenth-century Whig Grand Tour and country-house phenomena which Quatremère de Quincy had in mind); “Plutocracy” (the transitional period brought about by the displacement effects of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars); and, finally, “Democracy” (which concerns the arrival of the public art museum in the early nineteenth century, its proliferation, and the gradual institutionalization, professionalization and broadening of the collecting impulse into our time).

But this is an over-simplification, for the history of collecting is really the history of individual shoppers, and, occasionally, partnerships or syndicates such as that of the coal and canal magnate the third Duke of Bridgewater, with budgets ranging from the merely large to the positively obscene, and not necessarily husbanded with corresponding degrees of wisdom. It is also the history of sweatypalmed acquisitiveness, of rapacious greed, and also of processes of dissolution and loss – an invariably human story in which mostly anonymous crate-makers, removalists and shipping agents must figure prominently, while debt, disease, dispossession and death often interrupted grand schemes. . .

Perhaps the principal pleasure of The British as Art Collectors . .  is the intelligence and effectiveness with which a mass of contemporary illustrative material is marshalled to open a window onto cultural worlds. If at times the text is weighed down by lengthy descriptions of who owned what when, there is also a wealth of information, current and historical, in purely visual form. . .

The full review is available here (subscription required)

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Albert Rivero, “Truths to Life: Review of John Bender, Ends of Enlightenment (Stanford University Press, 2012),” TLS (5 July 2013), p. 12.

080474212XThe publication of Imagining the Penitentiary in 1987 established John Bender as a compelling critic of eighteenth-century British literature and culture. That book, written in imitation of Michel Foucault, connected novels by Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding to the panoptic model of incarceration that was then emerging. Since then, Bender has published a number of important and groundbreaking essays, ranging widely and often brilliantly over various topics and disciplines. Ends of Enlightenment gathers ten of those essays, grouped under three headings (Enlightenment Knowledge, Enlightenment Novels and Enlightenment Frameworks), with a framing introduction elucidating their common themes and concepts. . .

Novelistic realism has a dark ideological side, but not all essays here cast a suspicious eye on Enlightenment. In its ideal quest for universal and objective knowledge, available in conversation and in print to men and women from every walk of life (Jürgen Habermas’s “public sphere,” a construct Bender invokes frequently), the Enlightenment had many salutary effects. Some of these, in fragmentary and surprising ways – Bender regards the democratically composed Wikipedia as today’s version of Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie – are still very much with us.

It is in fact the sceptical David Hume who has displaced Foucault as Bender’s principal point of reference, and who inspires the modes of inquiry and ordering knowledge in Ends of Enlightenment. . .

The full review is available here (subscription required)

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James Hall, “Fade to Grey: Review of the exhibition Paper Palaces: The Topham Collection as a Source for British Neo-Classicism, Eton College Library,” TLS (5 July 2013), pp. 17-18.

. . . Expertly curated by Lucy Gwynn and Adriano Aymonino, Paper Palaces explores the influence exerted on architect-designers by illustrations of antique decorative painting commissioned by Richard Topham (1671-1730), Old Etonian antiquary and MP for Windsor. . .

The exhibition suggests Topham was rather more single-minded and original than Pope would have us believe, even if he did use agents in Italy to amass his roughly 2500 documentary drawings of Roman antiquities. Topham’s was the largest and most systematic collection of its kind in England, unique in being organized by location like a tourist guidebook, with every drawing clearly indexed in his own
hand. . .

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