New Book | Gainsborough: A Portrait

Posted in books by Editor on July 12, 2017

From Weidenfeld & Nicolson:

James Hamilton, Gainsborough: A Portrait (London: W&N, 2017), 448 pages, ISBN: 978 147460 0521, £25.

Frank, lucid and modern, this is a fresh portrait of Thomas Gainsborough, the most sensuous artist of the eighteenth century. Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) lived as if electricity shot through his sinews and crackled at his finger ends. He was a gentle and empathetic family man but had a volatility that could lead him to slash his paintings and a loose libidinous way of speaking, writing, and behaving that shocked many deeply. He would be dynamite in polite society today.

In this exhilarating new biography—the first in decades—James Hamilton reveals Gainsborough in his many contexts: the easy-going Suffolk lad, transported to the heights of fashion by a natural talent; the rake-on-the-make in London, learning his art in the shadow of Hogarth; falling on his feet when he married a duke’s daughter with a handsome private income; the top society-portrait painter in Bath and London who earned huge sums by bringing the right people into his studio; the charming and amusing friend of George III and Queen Charlotte who nevertheless kept clear of the aristocratic embrace.

There has been much art history written about this chameleon of art, but with fresh insights into original sources, Gainsborough: A Portrait transforms our understanding of this fascinating man and enlightens the century that bore him.

James Hamilton is an art and cultural historian. His books include Turner: A Life; Faraday: The Life, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; and A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain, which in 2014 was named Art Book of the Year by The Sunday Times. Hamilton was, until retirement in 2013, curator of art collections and projects in Portsmouth, Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds, and the University of Birmingham, where he is a Fellow of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.


Early Gainsborough Drawings Discovered at Windsor

Posted in museums by Editor on July 12, 2017

Rosie Razzall (left) and Lindsay Stainton (right) in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. Still from the BBC video describing the discovery (102 seconds), by video journalist Alex Stanger.

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As Rebecca Jones reports for the BBC (10 July 2017). . .

An album of drawings by 18th-century painter Thomas Gainsborough has been discovered in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. The drawings had been misattributed to another artist, Sir Edwin Landseer, since the reign of Queen Victoria. But after studying the 25 black-and-white chalk sketches, historian Lindsay Stainton confirmed they are actually early works by one of Britain’s most famous painters.

“It’s thrilling,” she told the BBC. “It’s the very best collection of Gainsborough’s early drawings in existence.” . . .

“We’re very much convinced that these are an important group of early drawings by Thomas Gainsborough,” agrees Rosie Razzall, curator of prints and drawings at the Royal Library. “It’s an extremely significant discovery. It means we are able to re-appraise the early work of Gainsborough.” . . .

The full article and video are available here»


Small Token from Carriera’s ‘Winter’ Recently Discovered

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on July 12, 2017

The Three Magi, print, 4.2 cm × 3.3 cm; this small print was sealed inside the frame of Rosalba Carriera’s Personification of Winter (ca. 1726), between the pastel’s wooden support and canvas liner (The Royal Collection Trust). 

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From the press release (9 May 2017) describing an extraordinary item discovered as a result of research for the Royal Collection Trust’s exhibition Canaletto and the Art of Venice, now on view at The Queen’s Gallery:

An 18th-century good-luck token has been found hidden inside Rosalba Carriera’s pastel A Personification of Winter by Royal Collection Trust’s conservators. One of the artist’s finest works, Winter was produced around 1726 for Joseph Smith, a British merchant, art collector, and dealer who lived in Venice and acted as agent to many artists, including Carriera and, most famously, Canaletto. Sealed inside the frame between the pastel’s wooden support and canvas liner, the token came to light during conservation of Winter for display in Royal Collection Trust’s exhibition Canaletto & the Art of Venice, which opened at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace on 19 May.

Just 4.2 cm × 3.3 cm in size, the token is in the form of a print of the three Magi and was clearly placed there by Carriera to protect the fragile pastel on its journey to its new owner. In the 18th century these tiny prints, known as santini (‘little saints’), were kept in prayer books or clothing as affordable and portable devotional objects. Rosalba Carriera, a very devout woman, is known to have been particularly fond of images of the three Magi, whose association with arduous journeys made them appropriate guardians for her works. Similar tokens have been found attached to other pastels by the artist.

In a letter to a friend in Florence on 3 December 1729, the Venetian nobleman Pier Caterino Zeno described Carriera’s devotion to the Magi: “Once she gave me a certain portrait to send to my brother in Vienna, and she gave me a little card of the three aforementioned adoring Magi; and said that to these she entrusted the safe outward journey of the portrait; adding that whenever such little images had accompanied her pictures, they had always arrived safely.”

Rosalba Giovanna Carriera, A Personification of Winter, ca. 1726, pastel on paper (London: Royal Collection Trust, 400647).

Rosalba Carriera was one of the most celebrated women artists of her day. Her pastels were highly admired by 18th-century European collectors, and prominent foreign visitors to Venice and Grand Tourists were eager to sit for portraits by her. The soft, velvety texture of pastel was particularly suited to Carriera’s sensual personifications such as Winter, portrayed as a young woman with a fur wrap slipping from her shoulders.

In 1762 the young monarch George III purchased virtually the entire collection of Joseph Smith, including Winter, which was among Smith’s most prized possessions. Thanks to this single acquisition, the Royal Collection contains one of the finest groups of 18th-century Venetian art in the world, including the largest collection of works by Canaletto. Winter hung in George III’s bedchamber at Buckingham House (later Buckingham Palace) alongside Carriera’s pastel of Summer.

Clara de la Peña McTigue, Royal Collection Trust’s Head of Paper Conservation, said, “The conservation of pastels is a very delicate operation, as the pigment surface of these works is so fragile. When we carefully removed the frame, we became very excited when we noticed a small piece of paper in the narrow space between the pastel’s support and the canvas, and suspected it might be one of Carriera’s tokens.”

Rosie Razzall, Royal Collection Trust’s Curator of Prints and Drawings and the exhibition’s co-curator, said, “It was only during conservation treatment that the print came to light. It’s incredible to think that it was put there by Carriera herself nearly 300 years ago to protect the work from ill fortune and has remained undiscovered until now.”






AHRC-funded Workshops | Architecture and Society, 1760–1840

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on July 12, 2017

After Jenkinson, View of Liverpool, 1813.

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From H-ArtHist:

Architecture and Society in an Age of Reform, 1760–1840
Liverpool, 19–20 September 2017; Bristol, 16–17 March 2018; and Birmingham, June 2018

Proposals due by 31 July 2017

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new AHRC-funded international research network on Architecture and Society in an Age of Reform, which aims to establish a dynamic, long-lasting, multi- and interdisciplinary research forum to investigate the relationship between architecture and society in the period 1760–1840. As part of the project we will be holding three workshops:

Liverpool, 19–20 September 2017
Bristol, 16–17 March 2018
Birmingham, date TBC June 2018

Each workshop will focus on the same broad set of research questions, with site visits on the first day designed to stimulate discussion on the second day. The broad sets of questions we will be exploring include:

User experience
• How can we reimagine the experience of building users?
• What can diaries, letters and literary evidence tell us?
• (How) can we use digital methods to recreate experience?

Patronage and knowledge
• How were buildings funded and what is the relationship between funding and form?
• How can we use the archival evidence resulting from patterns of patronage (legislation, subscription lists, contracts etc)?

Radical and conservative architecture
• How could and did architecture offer ways to contest, reform and reimagine society and/or maintain and strengthen existing structures?
• How can we use treatises, pattern books and other sources to identify different architectural discourses and different approaches to the use of space?

New and reimagined building types
• What do building forms tell us about contemporary understanding of their functions?
• How did architecture shape knowledge?
• How can we use surviving buildings and other non-textual sources as evidence?
• What are the most effective ways of engaging the wider public in this research?

Site Visits

The first day of each workshop will be dedicated to site visits, which are designed to stimulate new insights about the relationship between architecture and society in an Age of Reform. All travel will be arranged in advance, and network organisers will provide fact sheets for each site so that we can think about the buildings with the basic information at our fingertips.

Panel Formats

The second day of each workshop will be dedicated to focussed discussion designed to respond to the venue visits, to share ideas about the network’s key research questions, build research collaborations and identify potential research themes for future research. We will adopted a blended format designed to stimulate discussion, including the following formats:
• 5-minute speed-dating introductions to research
• spotlight sessions on local research institutions and heritage partners
• keynote papers
• roundtable discussion
• breakout

The project team invites initial expressions of interest from scholars interested in any element of the Architecture and Society research programme. If you feel you can make a significant contribution to any or all of our workshops, please send a brief summary of your research interests and career stage to the Principal Investigator (Alexandrina.Buchanan@liverpool.ac.uk) by 31 July 2017. The AHRC has generously provided funding to support a limited number of participants’ UK travel and accommodation expenses.


New Acquisition | View of Charleston, ca. 1774

Posted in museums by Editor on July 12, 2017

Engraved by Samuel Smith, after Thomas Leitch, A View of CHARLES-TOWN, in the Capital of SOUTH CAROLINA, published in London, 3 June 1776, hand-colored line engraving (Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, 2017-287)

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Press release (11 July 2017) from Colonial Williamsburg:

A rare, historically important view of Charleston, South Carolina, showing its appearance at the time of the American Revolution was recently purchased by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for its collection. A View of CHARLES-TOWN, in the Capital of SOUTH CAROLINA, engraved in London by Samuel Smith after a painting by Thomas Leitch, depicts recognizable Charleston landmarks during its peak of prosperity prior to the outbreak of the war.

“Acquisition of this exceptional, pre-Revolutionary view perfectly addresses the Foundation’s core mission, particularly since it furthers our understanding of early America and its Southern colonies,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg. “I applaud our generous donors for making the purchase a reality.”

“Eighteenth-century views of American cities are relatively rare, and those of southern centers even more so,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation, and museums. “At nearly three feet in width and retaining its original water coloring, this outstanding view of one of the South’s great seaports is exceptionally rare and important.”

This print, in its full original color, was engraved in 1774 after Leitch painted his scene within a year of his arrival in Charleston from London in 1773 and arranged for it to be shipped back there to be engraved for printing. Although little is known about Leitch, an advertisement that he placed in the South Carolina Gazette soliciting subscribers to assist with the cost of producing the print, and noting that he was sending the painting ‘home’ to have it engraved, confirms he came from London.

The artist rendered his painting in the Dutch panoramic style that enhanced the expanse of the coastline by increasing its width in relation to its height, forcing the viewer’s eye to move back and forth across the canvas. The image is curious, however; while earlier versions of Charleston show calm seas and dozens of merchant ships in the harbor, in this one, Leitch included only one British trading ship in the harbor. Only about six months earlier, Massachusetts traveler Josiah Quincy noted of the Charleston harbor that “the number of shipping far surpassed all I had ever seen in Boston….”

As Colonial Williamsburg’s Deputy Chief Curator Margaret Pritchard speculates, “It is possible that the notable absence of trading vessels venturing into the choppy waters of the Cooper River, under stormy skies, was intended to suggest the political tension between Charlestonians and the Mother country.” In 1773, just months before Leitch painted his view, Britain passed the Tea Act, and Charleston’s outraged citizens left the British-imported tea on the docks to rot. It was the following year in which townspeople elected delegates to the Continental Congress.

Although the print was engraved in 1774, it was not issued until 1776. Other known copies are held at the Yale University Art Gallery, the New York Public Library, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. The original painting is in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). The print was acquired through The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, which restricts its funds for object purchases.








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