New Book | Académie Royale: A History in Portraits

Posted in books by Editor on April 6, 2015

From Ashgate:

Hannah Williams, Académie Royale: A History in Portraits (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), 394 pages, ISBN: 978-1409457428, $110.

9781409457428From its establishment in 1648 until its disbanding in 1793 after the French Revolution, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture was the centre of the Parisian art world. Taking the reader behind the scenes of this elite bastion of French art theory, education, and practice, this engaging study uncovers the fascinating histories—official and unofficial—of that artistic community.

Through an innovative approach to portraits—their values, functions, and lives as objects—this book explores two faces of the Académie. Official portraits grant us insider access to institutional hierarchies, ideologies, rituals, customs, and everyday experiences in the Académie’s Louvre apartments. Unofficial portraits in turn reveal hidden histories of artists’ personal relationships: family networks, intimate friendships, and bitter rivalries. Drawing on both art-historical and anthropological frames of analysis, this book offers insightful interpretations of portraits read through and against documentary evidence from the archives to create a rich story of people, places, and objects.

Theoretically informed, rigorously researched, and historically grounded, this book sheds new light on the inner workings of the Académie. Its discoveries and compelling narrative make an invaluable and accessible contribution to our understanding of this pre-eminent European institution and the social lives of artists in early modern Paris.

Hannah Williams is Junior Research Fellow in Art History at St John’s College, University of Oxford.

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Introduction: Face-to-Face with the Académie Royale

Part I. The Official Face
1  An Institutional Image: Portrait of the Artist as an Academician
2  Rituals of Initiation: Becoming and Being in the Académie
3  On the Wall: Portraits, Spaces, and Everyday Encounters at the Académie

Part II. The Unofficial Face
4  Bloodlines: Portraits of Family
5  Reciprocal Acts: Portraits of Friendship
6  Facing Off: Portraits of Rivalry

Epilogue: The End of an Institution


Call for Papers | CIHA 2016 Session, The Other and the Foreign

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on April 6, 2015

Below is the general Call for Papers for the 2016 meeting in Beijing of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA), along with details for the session on “The Other and the Foreign.” Many of the 21 sessions will be of interest and the full CFPs is available here.

34th CIHA World Congress of Art History: Terms
Beijing, 15–22 September 2016

Proposals due by 30 June 2015

The Chinese CIHA Committee will host the 34th CIHA World Congress of Art History in Beijing and invites art historians from all over the world to attend and discuss Terms. Scholars from a vast cross-section of disciplines and fields of professional interest are called upon to discuss together ways of seeing, describing, analyzing, and classifying art works. The topics are divided into 21 sections. The sections should enable comparisons to be made between different viewpoints and methods. Each panel will compose a program reflecting the CIHA’s commitment to the idea of diversity, which should allow talks on different genres, epochs, and countries to be brought together. Please submit the abstract of your paper directly to the chairs with a copy to info@ciha2016.org before 30 June 2015.

Session 14: The Other and the Foreign: Contact, Curiosity, and Creative Exchange

Session Chairs
Petra Chu, Seton Hall University, New Jersey (petra.chu@shu.ed)
DING Ning, Peking University, Beijing (dingning@pku.edu.cn)
LIANG Shuhan (Junior Chair), Peking Univeristy, Beijing (liangtiantian@hotmail.com)
Jennifer Milam, Sydney University (jennifer.milam@sydney.edu.au)

This session is concerned with the representation of the ‘other’ and the ‘foreign’ in art as well as with the reception of ‘other’ and ‘foreign’ art forms. It acknowledges that, in a global world, the notion of ‘othering’ is not restricted to the geographically or ethnically distant (‘foreign’), but occurs within one’s own (geographically defined) culture between different social classes, genders, age groups, and religious affiliations. More generally, the session focuses on the phenomenon of artistic encounter and exchange. While its parameters are worldwide, papers on all topics related to the ‘other’/’foreign’ are solicited in as far as they pertain to the creation and reception of art and/or the transmission of creative ideas. Papers on the contacts between specific regions or the role and place of individual artists in the process of artistic exchange are welcomed.

Questions to be addressed may include but are not limited to the following:
• Can we distinguish universal paradigms for the ways in which ‘the other’ is represented in art, globally?
• In the global history of art, how have animals been used as devices for ‘othering’, not solely as subject matter, but as a means through which artists and their audiences engage with the nature of self—other relationships?
• How can we improve our theoretical models of the reception of foreign and, more generally, ‘other’ art?’
• Are there degrees of ‘otherness,‘ and if so, can we measure them? Can a work produced within one’s own (geographically defined) culture be just as ‘other’ as, or more so than, a work produced in a ‘foreign’ culture?
• How can we theorize ‘artistic exchange?’
• How do we define ‘hybridity’ in art? Is more than one definition possible?
• What is the relation/difference between exchanges between cultural centers and those that happen at peripheries, specifically in connection with ‘hybrid’ art forms?
• To what extent can artistic differences and sameness be accounted for through geography?


Researchers Revisit Fragonard’s ‘Young Girl Reading’

Posted in museums by Editor on April 6, 2015

Press release (2 April 2015) from Washington’s NGA:

Researchers were able to establish that Portrait of a Woman with a Book existed as a ‘complete’ painting for at least six months before it was changed into Young Girl Reading. The composition once showed a woman with her head turned outwards, looking at the spectator. She wore a large feathered headdress dotted with colored beads, a thinner neck ruffle than in the subsequent painting, and she was illuminated by a frontal light source. An amorphous folding shape in the background behind her was suggested to be a curtain on the basis of precedents in 17th- and 18th-century French portraiture.

Different Composition in Jean-Honoré Fragonard's Young Girl Reading

Details of Young Girl Reading, the near infrared hyperspectral image (HSI) and the x-ray florescence (XRF) scan for the element mercury (thought to show the presence of vermilion) are shown alongside a simulation of Portrait of a Woman with a Book, generated by cross-referencing various imaging techniques (simulated image by Becca Goodman and Denis Doorly).

One of the most beloved paintings in the National Gallery’s permanent collection, Young Girl Reading (c. 1770) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, shows a young woman in profile, reading the book in her hand. It is now clear that a completely different face was painted underneath, that of an older woman looking out towards the viewer. Using groundbreaking imaging techniques and new art historical investigation, Yuriko Jackall, assistant curator of French paintings, John Delaney, senior imaging scientist, and Michael Swicklik, senior paintings conservator, all at the National Gallery of Art, recovered and reconstructed this first composition, a fully-realized, ‘lost’ painting newly referred to as Portrait of a Woman with a Book.

Their research was sparked by the discovery, at a June 2012 Paris auction, of a drawing by Fragonard showing the Washington picture as a woman looking out at the viewer. The drawing further indicated that the Gallery’s painting once belonged to a series of 18 so-called ‘fantasy figures’, an ensemble painted for a single commission about which many details are still unknown. Today, these works have been dispersed among distinguished private collections and public institutions such as the Musée du Louvre, the Clark Art Institute, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the 1980s, x-radiography had indicated the presence of another composition beneath Young Girl Reading, but many details including the extent to which the artist had altered his canvas remained unknown. In the last decade, innovations in imaging technologies have provided completely new ways to examine paintings. Using a diverse range of methodologies combining traditional high-resolution color imaging, digital x-radiography, and cross-sectional analysis with chemical information from Delaney’s newly developed, high sensitivity, near infrared hyperspectral imaging (HSI) camera and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanning sensor, Jackall, Delaney, and Swicklik investigated the process by which Fragonard changed one composition into the other. The technology was developed recently at the Gallery as part of an ongoing initiative to create new analytical imaging tools for conservation led by Delaney. Funding was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon and Samuel S. Kress Foundations and a grant from the National Science Foundation to the Gallery and George Washington University (GWU). Image-registration algorithms designed by GWU’s Murray Loew and his team aided in the reconstruction of the prior composition.

At crucial points in their work, Jackall, Delaney, and Swicklik relied upon the expertise of colleagues across the Gallery, particularly in the departments of science, conservation, and imaging and visual services. Swicklik, who had previously written a pioneering article on the use of varnish in French painting, was critical in making sense of Fragonard’s painting technique. Jackall, an expert in 18th-century French painting, brought to the project an unusually deep network of contacts in France, having studied and worked there for a decade prior to her move to Washington, DC. In addition to conducting archival research, she consulted the Paris-based Fragonard specialist, Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey, one of the first to discover the drawing when it appeared at the Paris auction.

Moving forward on their research on the ‘fantasy figures’ and Young Girl Reading, Jackall, Delaney, and Swicklik plan to investigate other works in Fragonard’s series, in cooperation with institutions and individuals. Young Girl Reading was a gift of Mrs. Ailsa Mellon Bruce in memory of her father, Mr. Andrew W. Mellon, in 1961. The National Gallery owns 13 paintings, 21 drawings, and 17 prints by Fragonard.

The findings of Jackall, Delaney, and Swicklik, as well as Dupuy-Vachey’s preliminary study of the place of the drawing in Fragonard’s artistic practice (translated from the French by Jackall), appear in the April 2015 issue of The Burlington Magazine.

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