Enfilade

Exhibition | Picture Talking: James Northcote and the Fables

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by InternMK on August 4, 2014

B1985.36.749

Samuel William Reynolds, after James Northcote, Lion and Snake (detail), 1799, mixed method engraving (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection)

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The prints Northcote used in the collages date from the eighteenth century. Press release from the YCBA:

Picture Talking: James Northcote and the Fables
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2 October — 14 December 2014

Curated by Mark Ledbury and A. Cassandra Albinson

The first exhibition solely dedicated to James Northcote’s art and career, Picture Talking: James Northcote and the Fables will present a fascinating look at one of Britain’s most imaginative and eccentric painters.

William Daniell, after George Dance, James Northcote, between 1798 and 1819, graphite and red chalk on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper mounted on moderately thick, moderately textured, beige laid paper (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection)

William Daniell, after George Dance, James Northcote, between 1798 and 1819, graphite and red chalk on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper mounted on moderately thick, moderately textured, beige laid paper (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection)

Northcote (1746–1831) has been remembered primarily as a memoirist, a writer on art and artists, and a conversationalist whose strong opinions on diverse topics were often repeated in print. A pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy, Northcote enjoyed a popular reputation in his time for painting portraits of historical subjects, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, and animals. This subsequently was overshadowed by his prominence as a source of information on his contemporaries. This exhibition, drawn exclusively from the rich holdings of the Yale Center for British Art, will redress that imbalance by presenting an array of Northcote’s art: paintings, drawings, prints, and, at its center, a practically unknown manuscript for Northcote’s One Hundred Fables, Original and Selected (1828).

Northcote wrote and illustrated these fables for adults during the last twenty years of his life. They convey moral lessons, often with themes comparing the similarities of humans to animals. Using techniques well ahead of his time, Northcote created collaged illustrations for the Fables by cutting humans, other animals, and background details from his collection of historical engravings, then reassembling them into chimerical scenes. This exhibition will explore the translation of Northcote’s highly original designs from collages to their ultimate form as wood engravings for two series of Fables, the first published in 1828, the second, posthumously, in 1833. The wood engravings provided simplified, but highly popular, interpretations of the original fables for mass production and consumption. Picture Talking will consider the questions of originality versus pastiche and image versus text through careful consideration of Northcote’s art. It will argue that in his earlier work as a history painter and print designer, Northcote worked through the process of borrowing and collage. Thus, the fables represent a culmination of his career.

Picture Talking: James Northcote and the Fables has been organized by the Yale Center for British Art. The co-curators are Mark Ledbury (Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture and Director of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney) and A. Cassandra Albinson (Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art).

Opening Lecture
Mark Ledbury | Inspiration and Eccentricity: The Ups and Downs of James Northcote
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1 October 2014, 5:30

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From Yale UP:

Mark Ledbury, James Northcote, History Painting, and the Fables (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2014), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0300208139, $65.

Northcote CatalogueThe artistic accomplishments of James Northcote (1746–1831) have tended to be overshadowed by his role as a biographer of Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, with whom Northcote apprenticed. Here, Mark Ledbury constructs a very different image of Northcote: that of a prolific member of the Royal Academy and an active participant in the cultural and political circles of the Romantic era, as well as a portrait and history painter in his own right. This book focuses on Northcote’s One Hundred Fables (1828), a masterpiece of wood engraving, and the unconventional, collaged manuscripts for the volume. The Fables, extensively published here for the first time, were an early experiment in what is now a familiar multimedia practice. Idiosyncratic, personal, and visionary, One Hundred Fables serves as a lens through which to examine Northcote’s long, complex, and fruitful artistic career.

Mark Ledbury is Power Professor of Art History and director of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney.

 

 

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