Study Day | Collectors and the Country House Library

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on September 24, 2017

John Carter, View of the Library at Strawberry Hill, watercolour, 23.7 × 28.8 cm, from Horace Walpole, A Description of the Villa … at Strawberry-Hill (Strawberry Hill, 1784). The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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From Strawberry Hill:

Collectors and the Country House Library
Strawberry Hill, 19 October 2017

The shelves of Horace Walpole’s Library at Strawberry Hill, emptied in the great sale of 1842, have recently been filled with the loan of books from the library of Aske Hall, North Yorkshire. To celebrate this event, we are holding a study day on Collectors and the Country House Library. Particular themes are the evolution of country house libraries and how the libraries of art collectors such as Walpole support and enrich our understanding of their broader collections. Country house libraries may develop over generations of owners, but they may also strongly reflect the personality and interests of one collector, whether as bibliophile or in the broader history of collections of works of art. We will be looking not only at Walpole, but at a broad range of other collectors and their collections to show how much these libraries can reveal. Refreshments including a light lunch will be provided. For further information, please contact claire.leighton@strawberryhillhouse.org.uk. This event is kindly sponsored by the Delmas Foundation


9.30  Coffee

9.50  Welcome

10.00  Morning Papers
• Megan Aldrich, Saxon or Gothic? An Antiquarian Library at Stowe
• Stephen Clarke, ‘Quite a Paradise of Well-Conditioned, Beautiful Books’? Horace Walpole’s Library at Strawberry Hill

11.00  Break

11.10  Keynote Paper
• Mark Purcell, The Country House Library

12.05  Claire Reed, The Library at Osterley Park House

12.35   Lunch and tours of the house

2.15  Afternooon Papers
• Giles Mandelbrote, A Metropolitan Collector: The Library of Sir Richard Ellys (1682–1742) at Blickling Hall
• David Pearson, Bugs and Bindings: Eighteenth-Century Insect Rolls
• Stephen Lloyd, The Library of the Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall

3.30 Questions and final discussion


Symposium | Basic Instincts

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on September 23, 2017

Joseph Highmore, Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. (detail), 1743–44, oil on canvas, 62.7 × 75.7 cm (London: Tate). Part of the series Four Scenes from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela.

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From The Foundling Museum:

Basic Instincts: Art, Women, and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century
Keynes Library, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London, 20 November 2017

This symposium has been organised alongside the Foundling Museum exhibition Basic Instincts (on view from 29 September 2017 until 7 January 2018). Curated by Jacqueline Riding, historical consultant, author, and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London, Basic Instincts explores Georgian attitudes to love, desire, and female respectability through the radical paintings of Joseph Highmore (1692–1780). The symposium will draw out some of the key themes of the exhibition, focusing on the depiction of women and sexuality in eighteenth-century culture. Tickets are £40 (£30 concessions and Foundling Friends), with booking information available here.


10.00  Coffee and registration

10.20  Welcome from Kate Retford (History of Art Department, Birkbeck, University of London)

10.30  Jacqueline Riding (Curator of Basic Instincts, and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London), Basic Instincts: Love, Passion, Violence

11.00  Panel 1 | Highmore and His Context
• Kate Retford (Senior Lecturer in Art History at Birkbeck, University of London), Joseph Highmore, Time, and Miss Whichcote’s Marriage
• Kirsten Tambling (PhD candidate, History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London), ‘Into the Thickest Part of the Grove’: Hogarth’s ‘outdoor’ Before and After
• Emma Barker (Senior Lecturer in Art History at the Open University), Sentiment and Seduction: Cross-Channel Connections in Art and Literature

12.30  Lunch

14.00  Tour of Basic Instincts exhibition with Kathleen Palmer (Curator at the Foundling Museum)

15.30  Panel 2 | Art, Women, and Sexuality
Joanne Begiato (Professor in History, Oxford Brookes University), The Tender Mother in the Eighteenth Century: Bosoms and Bliss?
• Mary Peace (Senior Lecturer in English, Sheffield Hallam University), Reversing the Harlot’s Progress? The Figuring and Refiguring of Magdalens at the London Magdalen Hospital in the Eighteenth Century
• Karen Lipsedge (Associate Professor in English Literature, Kingston University), ‘Imagine They See’: Pamela and Visual and Literary Depictions of the Eighteenth-Century Interior

17.00  Closing remarks




Kress and AAMC Affiliated Fellowship for American Academy in Rome

Posted in opportunities by Editor on September 23, 2017

From the Association of Art Museum Curators:

Kress Foundation and AAMC Foundation Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome
Applications due by 16 October 2017

The purpose of The Samuel H. Kress Foundation and AAMC Foundation Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome is to provide essential funding for curators to develop projects that require research in Italy. Awarded projects need not be Rome specific. The program, launched in 2014, is intended to honor exceptional curatorial vision and help curators advance deserving projects.

Since its founding, the program has been awarded to distinguished curators to advance the following projects: Hilliard Todd Goldfarb (Associate Chief Curator and Curator of Old Masters, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) for Faith, Death, and Eternal Life in the Art of Poussin (working title); Judith Mann (Curator, European Art to 1800 at the Saint Louis Art Museum) for Painting on Stone, 1520–1800; Andaleeb Badiee Banta (Curator of European and American Art, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College) for Old Master Drawings @ Oberlin: The Italian Drawings; and Jessica Powers (The Gilbert M. Denman, Jr., Curator of Art of the Ancient Mediterranean World, San Antonio Museum of Art) for Sacred Landscapes: Visions of Nature and Myth in Ancient Rome.

“Establishing this Fellowship offers curators the ability to explore further important scholarly research by gaining access to sites and material within Rome.” said Max Marmor, President, of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. “Support for travel research is more and more a rare opportunity for many curators, and we are honored to offer this opportunity, which supports our mission to promote the professional work of curators.

“The AAMC Foundation is truly grateful to have partners, such as the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and American Academy in Rome, that share our organization’s mission, which includes a dedication to the curatorial field,” added former AAMC President (2013–15) Emily Ballew Neff. “We are thrilled to present to our members, through the generous support of the Kress Foundation, such an outstanding and rewarding opportunity to advance their research.”

• Open to AAMC members in good standing.
• Research can be exhibition related or for written scholarly work, but should not be in conjunction with completing a dissertation.
• Applicant is required to list preferred period of residency, indicating a first and second choice.
• A letter of support from institution director, project director and/or host of project.
• Priority will be given to those without funds to support research travel.

Applications are due by Monday, 16 October 2017 at 12pm, EST.

Exhibition | Making History Visible

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on September 22, 2017

From Princeton University Art Museum:

Making History Visible: Of American Myths and National Heroes
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, 26 September 2017 – 17 January 2018

Titus Kaphar, Billy Lee: Portrait in Tar, 2016, tar and oil on canvas, 152.4 x 121 cm (Kansas City, Collection of Billy and Christy Gautreaux; © Titus Kaphar / image courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Making History Visible will bring together historical and contemporary works to consider the role of visual art in creating an image of American identity and a multifaceted representation of history in the United States. Portraiture and history paintings were instrumental to the early formation of the republic, generating a vision of the new nation that served to unify the disparate colonies behind a cast of influential figures and pivotal events. This fall, as Princeton University examines its historic links to the institution of slavery, this installation juxtaposes works from the eighteenth century with those of contemporary artists to call into question who is represented, who is invisible, and what cultural values are embedded in the visual traditions of American history.

The artists whose work is featured include Titus Kaphar, Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Glenn Ligon, Sally Mann, William Ranney, Faith Ringgold, William Rush, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles White, John Wilson, and Hale Woodruff.

Making History Visible
is one component of a rich campus-wide conversation catalyzed by the Princeton and Slavery Project, which examines the University’s historical links to the institution of slavery.




Call for Papers | AAH 2018, London

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on September 22, 2017

Here are some of the thematic offerings proposed for the AAH 2018 conference that could include eighteenth-century papers. Be sure to consult the conference website for things I’ve overlooked.CH

44th Annual Association of Art Historians Conference
Courtauld Institute of Art and King’s College London, 5–7 April 2018

Proposals due by 6 November 2017

The 2018 Annual Conference for art history and visual culture will be co-hosted by the Courtauld Institute of Art and King’s College London. Academic sessions that papers will respond to the idea of ‘looking outwards’. This international 3-day event will look at art history in the broadest sense, and will incorporate a diverse range of speakers and perspectives.

The close collaboration between the two institutions—involving numerous other museums and cultural partners in London—will set the tone for a conference oriented around ‘looking outwards’. On one hand, we will be encouraging art historians and researchers to think about their disciplinary relationships with other affiliated subjects in the arts and humanities (as indeed beyond). On the other, we will be inviting new perspectives on international collaborations within the field (particularly important in the wake of recent political events…). We aim to incorporate an ambitious range of perspectives—from university academics and doctoral researchers, to educators, curators, heritage partners, and not least artists themselves. We hope to deliver an event with the widest possible remit and reach.

The 2018 conference will host 40 academic sessions, over 3 days (approximately 13–14 sessions each day). Each session will generally consist of between 4 and 8 papers (minimum 4, maximum 8); papers are usually 25 minutes, presented in 35-minute slots to allow for questions and movement between sessions. We will also accommodate alternative session formats—such as world-cafe, round-table, or open discussions. Sessions will respond to the idea of ‘looking outwards’ by engaging with art history and visual culture in the broadest sense. A listing of the 2018 academic sessions and abstracts (as a pdf file) is available here.

Please email paper proposals directly to the session convenors. You will need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name, and institutional affiliation (if relevant). Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media, and in the printed programme.

Conference Convenors
Joanna Woodall and Katie Scott (Courtauld Institute of Art)
Michael Squire (King’s College London)

Conference Coordinator
Cheryl Platt (Association for Art History)

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Art and Religion: Theology, the Sacred, and Visual Culture
Ben Quash (King’s College London), ben.quash@kcl.ac.uk; and Ayla Lepine (University of Essex), ayla.lepine@gmail.com

When art enters religious territory it can open new spaces of encounter that provoke, illuminate, challenge, and disturb. The attachments of religious conviction, meanwhile, can discomfit the disinterested analysis of the scholar of material culture. When scholarship in art history connects with research in religious studies and theology, dialogues necessarily open outwards, therefore, onto debates regarding religion and the sacred in visual culture and in public and private life. Building on recent scholarship by voices in theology, religion and the arts including Sally Promey, Graham Howes, Gretchen Buggeln and Christopher Pinney, this session encourages new perspectives on diverse meetings worldwide between the sacred and the arts. Across the past decade, art historians and theologians have begun to probe new zones of common ground and collaborate fruitfully. As an example, Stations 2016, staged in London during Lent 2016, was a remarkable but almost uncategorisable event. It created a route across London which connected works of art hanging in museum spaces (Jacopo Bassano’s Christ on the Way to Calvary in the National Gallery, for example, or a Limoges enamel sequence in the Wallace Collection) with works of art in church spaces (many of them newly commissioned, temporary installations), and also with works of art in public and ostensibly ‘neutral’ spaces (like a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square). It clearly showed that contexts are not only physical spaces; they are also human uses. The Bassano in the National Gallery could, at the very same instant that Lent, have been gazed upon by a tourist spending a morning enjoying art for art’s sake, and a pilgrim en route with Christ to Golgotha. This session encourages papers from art historians and theologians in fields that explore any tradition or period in which art and religion interlace to produce new experiences and understandings of holiness and the sacred. We particularly welcome submissions that break new ground in relation to liturgy and ritual, interdisciplinary methodologies and cross-fertilizations between theology and art history, the unique status of religious objects in museums and cultural institutions, interactions between sacred scripture and the arts, religious implications for representational and abstract art, diverse intersections of gender, identity, and religious art, and studies that challenge and even break boundaries regarding conventional understandings of ‘religion’ and ‘faith’.

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Beyond Boundaries: Artistic Inquiries into Borders and Their Meanings
Mey-Yen Moriuchi (La Salle University), moriuchi@lasalle.edu; and Lesley Shipley (Randolph College), lshipley@randolphcollege.edu

Borders have played a critical role in the development and distribution of culture, often acting as frameworks that help or hinder our ability to ‘look outwards’. In The Location of Culture, Homi Bhabha calls attention to the value of interstitial spaces, where borders, frames, and other locations ‘in-between’ become ‘innovative sites of collaboration and contestation in the act of defining the idea of society itself.’ Other philosophical considerations of borders, such as Martin Heidegger’s concept of gestell, or enframing, Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of Enlightenment aesthetics vis-à-vis the parergon, and Victor Stoichita’s analysis of framing devices in early modern ‘meta-painting’, have demonstrated the transformative power of edges, frames, borders, and boundaries in art.

This session will focus on works of art, artistic practices, and art historical perspectives that think critically and creatively about borders and their meaning(s). The goal is to expand our understanding of borders, whether physical or conceptual, historical or theoretical. In the spirit of pushing beyond boundaries of convention and ‘looking outwards’, we welcome papers that focus on any medium, art historical period, or curatorial practice. Papers may address, though are not limited to: art that explores the significance of borders to migrants, immigrants, diasporic communities or other groups residing (both literally and figuratively) ‘in-between’; activist art that interrogates borders and their meaning(s); the role of public art, public space, and social media in thinking beyond boundaries; the metaphorical and/or literal framing of a work of art and its effects; the symbolic purpose or meaning of frames in various cultural contexts (for instance, the role of framing in religious spaces or objects, such as tabernacles, wall niches, icon paintings, and marginalia).

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Body as Architecture / Architecture as Body
Kelly Freeman (University College London), k.freeman.11@ucl.ac.uk; and Rebecca Whiteley (University College London), rebecca.whiteley.12@ucl.ac.uk

Just as the head, foot, and indeed any member must correspond to each other and to all the rest of the body in a living being, so in a building … the parts of the whole body must be so composed that they all correspond to one another.  –Leon Battista Alberti, De re aedificatoria (c. 1450)

There has, since classical antiquity, been a complex set of correspondences between the human body and the designed building. Such interactions spring from the enduring art- theoretical ideal whereby art and architecture should imitate nature, as well as from broader cultural, medical and anatomical thinking wherein the body is described in terms of architecture and domestic arrangement. Throughout recorded history, architects have turned to the proportions, structures, processes, and narratives of the human body when designing built spaces. Likewise, artists and writers working in anatomy, medicine, politics and literature, to name a few, have turned to the shape, design and spaces of the building when discussing and explaining the body.

Our panel will explore how this enduring correspondence has been expressed and shaped by visual culture. We encourage papers that treat as broad an array of visual and theoretical material as possible: from art theory and architecture to anatomical print. Papers may wish to address one of the following themes: the body’s architecture, organic and anatomical theories and representations in architecture, metaphors of bodies and buildings, the (gendered) materiality and form of the body and of architecture. We intend to set no limits on geography or period, and to convene a session with as wide a scope as possible. In response to the theme of ‘Look out!’, we hope to bring together a variety of disciplines—from art history and architecture, to literature, history of science and medicine—and to bring different theoretical and disciplinary approaches into conversation.

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Dangerous Bodies – Look out! Fashioned Bodies on the Boundaries
Royce Mahawatte (Central Saint Martins, London), r.mahawatte@csm.arts.ac.uk; and Jacki Willson (University of Leeds), j.m.willson@leeds.ac.uk

This panel explores the cultural intersection between bodies, fashion and transgression. Bodies are political players in culture. What role do fashioned bodies play in resistance, in meeting governmental boundaries or institutional power? Fashion is an aspect of modern warfare. Style can defend and attack in cultural space. How do fashioned bodies occupy the grey area between social control and the resistance to power? In relation to Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou’s idea of the ‘performative in the political’ (2013) this session would like to consider how fashioned bodies—which are ‘revolting’, ‘laughing’, ‘unruly’, ‘grotesque’, ‘contaminating’, explicit, or silent and still—enact resistant strategies of protest.

We welcome readings of historical fashion media. How do governmental changes find embodiment in 18th-century masquerade, 19th-century fashion cultures, Modernist imagery? How does fashion intersect with race and gender discourses where colonialism, capitalism and embodiment are inextricably linked? To this end, this session would also like to consider the way that dress has been used emblematically to symbolise specific recent activist moments—for instance the woman in the flowing black dress in the Black Lives Matter demonstration in July 2016 or the ‘woman in red’ who became a symbol of protest in Turkey in 2013. How do acts of fashioned stillness (not passivity), play, refusal or rage mediate conflict, and challenge, critique or attack violent regimes? In what way does the artistic and deliberate use of fashion and the transgressive body differ from digital exposure which is not a deliberate part of a discursive framework? We welcome multi-disciplinary papers that engage with this topic from Art History and Critical Practice, Cultural Studies, Fashion Critical Studies, Film and Literary Studies, Performance Studies, Politics and International Studies, Sociology, Gender, Queer, LGBTI, and Critical Race Studies.

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Dangerous Portraits in the Early Modern World
Jennifer Germann (Ithaca College), jgermann@ithaca.edu; and Melissa Percival (University of Exeter), M.H.Percival@exeter.ac.uk

Portraiture was a dynamic and, at times, disruptive artistic practice in the early modern period. Portraits could and did undermine, reconfigure, or otherwise step outside the bounds of social propriety. Rather than upholding or reinforcing existing hierarchies and/or maintaining the status quo, these portraits challenged the expectations of spectators and consumers. Dangerous portraits could disavow normative behavioural expectations, challenge the political order either openly or privately, or imagine and even generate new identities. How were social expectations engaged and subverted in portraits? Where and in what forms were dangerous portraits consumed or shared? How did artists, spectators, critics, and/or markets respond to these challenges? This session seeks papers that consider early modern portraits that pushed beyond the bounds of social norms and expectations. It engages the theme ‘look out!’ by allowing for reflection on identities traditionally viewed as ‘outside’ the bounds of the normative or desirable in terms of gender, race, class, geography, etc., produced between 1500 and 1800. Papers are welcomed from diverse cultural traditions around the globe, which address the impact of cross-cultural exchange, consider media beyond painting and sculpture, and by scholars, curators, and artists who work outside of the discipline of art history.

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Dialogues: Things and Their Collectors
Nicole Cochrane (University of Hull), Cochrane@2014.hull.ac.uk; Lizzie Rogers (University of Hull), E.J.Rogers@2012.hull.ac.uk; and Charlotte Johnson (Victoria and Albert Museum), ch.johnson@vam.ac.uk

Acts of acquiring, collecting, curating and reception of the object, are generally understood as reciprocal relations between the collector and the object of desire, whether institutional or individual, art or artefact. However, the content of that exchange or dialogue has often been taken for granted. Collecting for display and social advancement, collecting as speculation, collecting for love etc. have too often been accepted as self-explanatory, diverting academic enquiry elsewhere, and obscuring the complexities at the heart of collecting practice. This panel seeks to build on the recent development of scholarship in this field, exploring the push and pull between things and collectors, artists and institutions. It questions how dialogues between parties transform the status, values, identity and character of each.

We propose an object-based approach, focused upon these ‘conversations’, conversations that we invite from any historical moments and geographical location. We encourage participants to engage with issues of class, gender and race as they relate to collecting and especially to the dialogue between collecting and identity. Particularly welcome are collaborative papers from artistic practitioners, academics and museum professionals, that address these issues from their respective vantage points, and papers from those based in scientific and ethnographic collections.

Dialogues between individual collectors and their things could include: provocation and comfort, artistic inspiration and practice, tactical or impulsive, therapeutic or detrimental, sameness and difference, temporality and permanence, lived or fixed, animate or inanimate. Dialogues between stakeholders and institutions could explore: exchanges between collector/donor and museum, boundaries between public and private modes of display, academic approval and the canon, natural history collections and modes of knowledge, national pride.

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Figuring Change: The Early Modern Artistic Reception of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Lydia Hamlett (University of Cambridge), lkh25@cam.ac.uk; and Philip Hardie (University of Cambridge), prh1004@cam.ac.uk

This session—co-convened by a classicist and an art historian—explores the art-historical legacy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and its underlying myths of classical transformation. It seeks papers that extend the chronological and geographical remit of Ovid’s visual cultural reception, as well as those that relate shifts in art historical reception back to the Ovidian metapoetics of transformation. We seek to attract papers on a wide range of case studies—not just sculpture and painting, but also tapestries, murals, music, architecture, and performance; we are likewise interested in papers that ‘look out’ to the intersection of art history with, for example, changes in social history, politics and the history of science. Individual papers might be diachronic and transhistorical in scope, or else home in on the visual culture of specific times and places.

The visual reception of episodes from the Metamorphoses has long been studied by art historians; likewise, recent work on the text by classicists has focused on the aesthetics and politics of the gaze, the ecphrastic challenge to the artist and the transformative power of art. There are nonetheless some important lacunae where an interdisciplinary approach might prove instructive—for example, in the case of Britain during the 17th and early 18th centuries (a particularly rich lens for thinking about how early modern readers and viewers looked at, and thought with, the traditions of Greece and Rome). What should we look out for in terms of the visual treatments of Ovidian subjects? Are images of Ovidian tales of metamorphosis merely entertainment and titillation? Or do they point to important changing moral, cultural and political ideas?

We are particularly interested in papers that focus on lesser-known aspects of Ovidian reception, or which to build new modes of interdisciplinary exchange. Topics might include differing receptions of the Metamorphoses in Britain and on the Continent; editions of Ovid in country house libraries and how and by whom they were read within the context of wider collections; traditions of illustrating Ovid; the appropriation of Ovid in public and private spheres, across court, country and city; the representation of material change, including alchemy and apotheosis; and ideas of intermedial translation between words and images.

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Interdisciplinary Entanglements: Towards a ‘Visual Medical Humanities’
Fiona Johnstone (Birkbeck, University of London); and Natasha Ruiz-Gómez (University of Essex)

This roundtable conversation will consider how the disciplines of art history and visual culture might cultivate a mutually productive relationship with the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities. Situated predominantly in departments of English Literature or History (and increasingly, the Social Sciences), the medical humanities have, to date, been dominated by the written or spoken word, with visual culture yet to take centre stage. This may be changing: recent developments suggest that it might be possible to speak of a ‘visual turn’ within the medical humanities. Arts-based methodologies have been proposed as one possible alternative to an overemphasis on narrative techniques in healthcare; there has been a renewed interest in art therapy and the arts-in-health movement, in the efficacy of arts-based interventions in clinical settings, and in potential therapeutic and/or diagnostic applications of art and art-making. Several medical schools now run elective modules aimed at developing students’ visual literacy skills through exposure to artworks; in other programmes, artists are engaged to teach students ‘soft’ skills such as empathy and communication techniques. Despite these encouraging developments, scholars of art history and visual culture have yet to convincingly articulate the contribution their discipline can make to this rapidly expanding field.

To address this, panellists will be invited to imagine the possibility of a ‘visual medical humanities’. We suggest that this must do more than simply offer analyses (historical or otherwise) of iconographies of illness or injury. At its most productive, a visual medical humanities could raise searching questions about the social, political and ethical conditions of visibility and spectatorship; query how certain types of bodies come to be more visible than others; consider how medical identities are visually as well as linguistically constructed; and think critically about the way in which images and objects are used and displayed in (for example) textbooks and research papers, public health campaigns, and medical museums and art galleries. Acknowledging that ‘the space where one speaks’ and ‘the space where one looks’ operate according to different sets of rules (Foucault, 1970), a visual medical humanities might advocate for an increased sensitivity to the potential of the visible (and invisible) to articulate that which may not be expressed in words. Finally, a visual medical humanities would recognise that visual practice has a vital role to play in the construction of knowledge (as opposed to simply the dissemination of it).

The ramifications of this panel go beyond the specific relationship between art history, visual culture and medical humanities and speak directly to ongoing debates about the complexities of interdisciplinary research. Participants will consider how different disciplines can enrich each other, how we might use the tensions between disciplines constructively, and how the ‘messiness’ of interdisciplinarity might offer a valuable space for critical collaboration and productive entanglement.

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In/visibility and Influence: The Impact of Women Artists and Their work
Helen Draper (Institute of Historical Research, University of London), helen.draper@postgrad.sas.ac.uk; and Carol Jacobi (Tate), carol.jacobi@tate.org.uk

The assumption that ‘influence’ is something that can be traced backwards (or even forwards, as Baxandall argued in Patterns of Intention) is an issue for feminist art history. A feminist art history, that is, that seeks to avoid implicitly patriarchal genealogies and fully to acknowledge the effects of women artists and their work in artistic realms theoretically constituted in masculine terms and traditionally dominated by men. This session aims to review the the age-old issue of ‘the anxiety of influence’ through the lens of feminism and the agency of women artists.

Whitney Chadwick’s edited book Significant Others (1996), which focused on the relationships between artist-couples, and Lisa Tickner’s essay ‘Mediating Generation: The Mother–Daughter Plot’ (OAJ, 2002), which examined the way in which women artists ‘thought through’ their mothers, are important contributions to this revision. This session aims to expand the discussion through evidence-based papers relating to periods and cultures in which the experience of women was or is structurally different from that of men. We welcome papers that retrieve and analyse the hidden or suppressed agency of women artists and their works, and/or demonstrate the effects they have had through conversations, inter-relationships, collaborations, negotiations, networks, pedagogical interventions and other personal and material interactions. Our aim is to contribute to alternative cultural maps and historical accounts that pinpoint and more adequately describe the ‘influence’ of women artists and their works. We invite 250-word abstracts for 25-minute papers, short films, or 250-word interventions.

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Just Looking? Art, Pedagogy, and the Object Lesson in the Long 19th Century
Elena Chestnova (Università della Svizzera Italiana), elena.chestnova@usi.ch; and Andrea Korda, (University of Alberta), korda@ualberta.ca

The popularity of object lessons in the 19th century attests to the fact that looking at things was not taken for granted as a straightforward or innate activity. Vision was to be educated. Its formation was embedded in a complex of senses and ‘mental faculties’, which meant that seeing involved more than just the eye; it was both multi-sensorial and multi-dimensional. Looking was not always aimed solely outwards, and the path between the subject and the object was not necessarily a direct line.

This session aims to examine the history of the object lesson—a pedagogical approach that relies on first-hand engagement with artefacts and phenomena—by inviting contributions that investigate its ‘messy’ instances. The growth of both general and artistic education in the 19th century saw the methodology of learning through things expand into new media, with images increasingly used as learning aids. Teaching activities of artists and historians led to the introduction of object lessons into artistic practices and art historical writing, and in some instances, artworks themselves became object lessons. How can we understand 19th-century object lessons in view of this growing complexity? And what are the implications for our conceptualisation of vision, which indeed ‘has a history’? The ongoing scholarly interest in the history of education and growing attention to popular forms of art history resonate with the concerns of this session. We invite paper proposals from a range of disciplines including but not limited to the history of art.

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Looking Out and In: Reflecting, Remaking, and Reimagining Historical Interiors from Contemporary Viewpoints
Helen McCormack (Glasgow School of Art), h.mccormack@gsa.ac.uk; Anne Nellis Richter, anne.nellis@gmail.com; and Jennifer Gray (Edinburgh College of Art), Jennifer.Gray@ed.ac.uk

Recent research on the history of the domestic interior has highlighted the significance of meanings embedded in the architecture, decoration and objects that comprise the furnishings and fittings of houses and homes. Such increasingly rich and diverse investigation has demonstrated an expansive reach, encompassing grand, architectural schemes and minute inventoried, personal belongings. Despite this development, often the interpretative and communicative aspects of art and design that make up the social meanings of these spaces is misrepresented or can be overly speculative. Therefore, in reflecting, remaking and reimagining historical interiors, the contributions of artists, designers and craftspeople might best be foregrounded in constructing ideas of authenticity, transparency, and materiality in the making process, alongside scholarly study. This panel explores such ideas by reflecting on how historical interiors are remade and reimagined by looking in and out; at how a reassembling of spaces ought to avoid ‘a shrinking definition of the social itself’ (Latour, 2005).

Surveying a range of interior ‘types’ from a number of historical periods, the panel welcomes papers that investigate how meaning is made in refashioning domestic and social spaces in, for example, the homes of 18th-century naturalists and collectors, the colonial governor’s house or plantation mansion, the 17th-century artisan’s house or the 19th-century mogul’s glittering halls. Palatial to austere, we invite papers from researchers and practitioners currently working on these reimagined spaces that explore how historical interiors are made meaningful from a contemporary viewpoint, explaining how they might be embedded in the social and grounded in the present.

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Remembering and Forgetting the Enlightenment
Hans Christian Hönes (The Warburg Institute), hoenes@bilderfahrzeuge.org; and Daniel Orrells (King’s College London), daniel.orrells@kcl.ac.uk

Art history is often considered a child of the Enlightenment: its methodological roots—aesthetics and historicism—are commonly associated with towering figures of the 18th century. Winckelmann and Kant loom large, and their influence on the development of the discipline is uncontested. And yet, numerous art writers have been virtually forgotten, even though their contribution to and influence on 18th- and 19th-century discourses on art was probably just as important as the theories of the better-known German grandees. Pierre d’Hancarville or Jørgen Zoega are just two names, representative of those whose work has not stood the test of time. More often than not, these writers belong to what has been called the ‘Super-Enlightenment’: their thinking is infused with mystical and occult ideas and is often interested more in history and myth than in beauty and style.

That art history turned a blind eye might be surprising, given recent attempts to reinvigorate approaches open to ‘unreason,’ in order to develop new ways for explaining the power of images. The renaissance of the work of Aby Warburg is notable here. This panel aims to evaluate these selection processes in the historiography and epistemology of art history and aesthetics: where and why do art historians, from the 18th to the 21st century, acknowledge the Enlightenment legacies of their discipline and when is it swept under the carpet? Does this canon formation in art history differ from other disciplines, such as classics and archaeology? Where has the ‘Super-Enlightenment’ left its traces in art historical thinking?

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Seeing and Hearing the ‘Beyond’: Art, Music, and Mysticism in the Long 19th Century
Michelle Foot (University of Edinburgh), mfoot@exseed.ed.ac.uk; and Corrinne Chong (Independent Researcher), corrinnecareens@gmail.com

This interdisciplinary session will explore the dialogue between art and music in addressing the subject of mysticism in the long 19th century (1789–1918). To counteract the positivist current that gained momentum during the period, artistic circles gravitated towards mystical means that initiated the beholder and listener into truths that transcended the world of external appearances. The session seeks to gauge the scope of different interpretations of mysticism and to illuminate how an exchange between art and music may unveil an underlying stream of metaphysical, supernatural, and spiritual ideas over the course of the century.

The multiple facets of mysticism manifested across a diverse range of styles, aesthetics, and movements. As esotericism saturated America, Europe and Britain, the Romantics and Symbolists responded to mystical beliefs expressed in Swedenborgianism, Spiritualism, Theosophy and Occultism, while drawing on exposures to Eastern religions. Reinterpretations of pagan mysticism prompted the rediscovery of Folkloric primitivism. Meanwhile, Catholic and evangelical revivals, alongside renewed interest in Medievalism, revitalised Christian themes. In practice, the proliferation of occult revivals at the fin-de-siècle permeated the thematic programmes of artists and composers. Wagner’s operas underscored the link between music, myth, and mysticism through the synthesis of the arts: the Gesamtkunstwerk. Subsequently, Syncretism in mystical philosophies was paralleled by formal correspondences in the visual arts, especially in their ‘rhythmical’ qualities. Synesthesia would instigate the development of abstraction.

This session invites submissions that extend these ideas by investigating how the interconnectedness between art and music was able to evoke and be inspired by mysticism. Papers drawn from other periods that examine the origins, and newer forms of mystical appropriations, will be considered, and those which incorporate perspectives across the spectrum of visual culture and musicology are particularly welcome.

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Soundscapes: New Challenges, New Horizons
Margit Thøfner (University of East Anglia), m.thofner@uea.ac.uk; and Tim Shephard (Sheffield University)

There is a long and fruitful scholarly tradition of exploring the relationships between art and music. Amongst other things, the study of both entails working with objects, spaces and practices that are profoundly embodied, sensory and emotional. To work with and between art and music means becoming acutely attuned to the visceral as much as to the analytical. Yet there is still more to be gained. Recently, when commenting on the relationship between art history and musicology, Jonathan Hicks speculated that ‘it may be precisely in attending to the locations of expressive culture—whether noisy, spectacular, or a combination of these and more—that our disciplines might find most common ground’.

Our strand will explore this proposition. What may be learned from focusing on how music and sound—or even the silent evocation of sound—is framed by places, spaces, objects, rituals and other performative contexts and vice versa? More broadly, how does this common ground helps us to map out and explore the problems and challenges currently facing art historians who work with music and musicologists working with art? For example, is it still a problem that many of our current methods of enquiry have come from studies of European modernism? What happens when they are applied to earlier periods and/or different cultural contexts? We welcome papers that address these and cognate issues, whether by engaging with broader methodological problems or by exploring specific soundscapes from any period and anywhere.

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Mechthild Fend (UCL), m.fend@ucl.ac.uk; and Anne Lafont (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), anne.lafont@inha.fr

Technologies associated with textile production—such as weaving, knitting, spinning, embroidering or dying—have often served as models for processes of art making and colouring. Painting and weaving have been aligned since antiquity, during the early modern period the mythical weaver Arachne could serve as an allegory of colourist painting, and dying became a model to think through colour printing. In the 19th-century, architectural theorist Gottfried Semper declared weaving an ur-technology that is the basis of all building work, and artists such as Millet, Van Gogh, or Liebermann drew, in their paintings and graphic work, comparisons between weaving and assembling brush strokes or between spinning and drawing lines. This panel would like to newly explore such associations of textile production with artistic processes by joining them with recent anthropological theorisations of the ‘Textility of making’ (Tim Ingold) or with approaches that ‘look for the traces of the process that generated the work’ (Jean-Paul Leclercq). By doing so, it proposes to raise the question of the ways in which a focus on textility might pose a challenge to notions of the agency of objects. At the same time, it would also like to reconnect with earlier feminist approaches to textiles and textile production that aimed to destabilise traditional hierarchies of media by highlighting not only women’s involvement in textile production but also the paradigmatic character of techniques such as weaving. Finally, we are interested in the way in which crafted fabrics serve as models for the human body and its visualisation, be it in the use of metaphors like ‘tissue’ or the association of dyes and body colour. We invite papers dealing with art theory or art practices and forms of fabrication (including, but not restricted to, textiles) that mobilise and reflect ‘textility’ as a theoretical proposition.

This panel is ‘looking out’ as it engages with interdisciplinary methodologies and encourages global perspectives on fabrics and their fabrication as models for thinking about practices of making. In addition to the academic session we are planning a panel visit to the V&A Textile Collections at the Clothworkers’ Centre at Olympia, in collaboration with Lesley Miller, Senior Curator (Textiles) at V&A.

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The National in Discourses of Sculpture in the Long Modern Period (c. 1750–1950)
Tomas Macsotay (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), tomas.macsotay@upf.edu; and Roberto Ferrari (Columbia University, New York), rcf2123@columbia.edu

Are specific histories of national ‘schools’ of sculpture premised by the codifying of national identities? What role has been reserved for modern European languages and their historical networks of cultural transfer in enabling or inhibiting this circulation of nationalism in sculpture criticism? From the veneration of Greek art by Winckelmann, to the Romantic idea of a Northern spirit in the work of Thorvaldsen; from the imperial narratives of display at the World’s Fairs, to constructions of allegory in French Third Republic art; from monuments to fallen heroes after World War I, to Greenberg’s and Read’s critical biases for national sculptors—varieties of imaginary geographies in the long modern period have congealed into a fitful history where sculpture is entrenched in projections of the national. Discourses of exclusion and inclusion became part of how sculptors were trained, public spaces were ornamented, and audiences were taught to read sculpture. These discourses also played a role in the strengthening (and dissimulation) of increasingly border-crossing networks of industrial production, globalised art trade, and patterns of urban infrastructure and design.

This panel seeks papers that offer critical explorations of the national and its tentative ties to the cosmopolitan in sculptural discourse, or consider a transdisciplinary dialogue between sculpture and its texts (e.g. art school writings, criticism, memoirs and biographies, etc.). We particularly welcome papers addressing the role of translation and circulation in fledgling modern criticism, as well as papers engaging recent accounts of cultural transfer in the construction of national and modern artistic identifiers (e.g. Michel Espagne, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel).

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The Weaver’s Workshop: Materiality, Craft, and Efficacies in the Art of Tapestry
Katja Schmitz-von Ledebur (Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien), katja.ledebur@khm.at

Tapestry is a complex and expensive medium. From the Middle Ages production of tapestry incorporated precious stuffs, including silk, fine wool, gold, and silver thread. To this rich materiality it added a complicated and costly manufacturing process that involved diverse media (drawing and weaving), and which therefore required multi-professional teams of artists, both local and international, to endow these artefacts with a variety of motifs in elaborate compositions. At its peak in the Renaissance and the Baroque, production was both local and international, the complexity of the product necessitating the support of an international network of workshops and agents acting on behalf of customers all over Europe and beyond.

Tapestry is easily folded or rolled up, making the work of art highly mobile. Owners were thus able to present tapestries in different places and for a host of diverse occasions. It thus lent itself to a variety of purposes, both public and private, as both symbol and sign and as instrument and image of power and object of desire. Tapestry was thus an exceptional mobile that invites questions about the relationship between technology, power, propaganda, representation, and aesthetics

This session will investigate specific aspects of tapestry, both as an artwork and as a high-end product of industrial production via discussion that is interdisciplinary in its look out. We invite papers that consider the development and innovations in tapestry production arising from changes in technology and in aesthetic taste, such as, for example, colour treat. Papers could ask, for example, what kinds of technological challenges were involved in Raphael’s ‘Italian’ designs for the Brussels workshops or, more generally, how weavers responded to changes in disegno. We are also interested in the question of how such alterations impacted on the function of tapestries, whether they were the cause of the declining interest in and status of tapestry as art in industrial revolution, and how we can explain tapestry’s revival in Modernism.

Exhibition | The Birth of Pastel

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on September 21, 2017

Rosalba Carriera, A Muse, mid-1720s, pastel on blue paper (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003.17).

On view through the fall at The Getty Center:

The Birth of Pastel
The Getty, Los Angeles, 6 June — 17 December 2017

This installation explores the evolution of pastel paintings out of colored chalk drawings from the Renaissance to the Rococo. Featuring works by Jacopo Bassano, Federico Barocci, Simon Vouet, Robert Nanteuil, Joseph Vivien, Rosalba Carriera, and Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, the display focuses most closely on the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, when pastels began to rival oils—in their variety of color, their high degree of finish, and even their scale—as the preferred medium for stately portraits.



Lecture | Basile Baudez on Color in Architectural Drawings

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on September 21, 2017

Upcoming at the BGC (the lecture is scheduled to be livestreamed; see the website for details). . .

Basile Baudez, Inessential Colors: A History of Color in Architectural Drawings, 16th–19th Centuries
Bard Graduate Center, New York, 3 October 2017

Isidro Velázquez (1765–1840), Roma, Anfiteatro castrense. Alzado, sección y vista de sus ruinas, 1792–96, 48.5 × 32.5cm (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional Dib/13/5/51).

Basile Baudez will deliver a Françoise and Georges Selz Lecture on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture on Tuesday, October 3, at 6pm. His talk is entitled “Inessential Colors: A History of Color in Architectural Drawings, 16th–19th Centuries.”

Architectural historians have focused on the history of drawing primarily as a project design tool. By applying the methods of art history, this talk traces color as a key player in the long history of rivalry and exchange between European traditions in architectural drawing and practice. While Italian Renaissance drawings were largely monochrome and developed their conventions under pressure from engravers, seventeenth-century European drawings are characterized by a contrast between a colorful German and Dutch world—developed around architect-painters’ designs that influenced French and Spanish draughtsmanship—and a still largely monochrome tradition in Italy and England. At the end of Louis XIV’s reign, French architects adopted color conventions taken from engineers, largely for informational purposes. In the middle of the eighteenth century, however, a color revolution took place, one in which a new generation of architects who were working alongside painters developed a wide chromatic range that was no longer limited to informing the worker but to persuading academic juries and gaining commissions. This eighteenth-century French employment of color laid the foundation for Beaux-Arts architectural drawings in the first half of the nineteenth century, at a moment when English architectural drawings also adopted color in response to the English watercolor movement.

Since 2007, Basile Baudez has been Maître de Conférences in heritage studies and architectural history at Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV. For the 2015–16 year he was a Visiting Scholar in the History of Art Department at the University of Pennsylvania. His research has been supported by fellowships from CASVA at the National Gallery of Art and the Getty Research Institute. He received his PhD from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études in 2006 and published his dissertation at the Presses Universitaires de Rennes under the title Architecture et tradition académique au siècle des Lumières. His main areas of research are the history of architectural schools and the Beaux-Arts system as well as the history of architectural representation in the Western world. He co-edited a monograph on Les Hôtels de la Guerre et des Affaires étrangères à Versailles (Paris: Chaudun, 2010) and a volume Chalgrin, architectes et architecture entre l’Ancien Régime et l’Empire (Bordeaux: Blake and Cie, 2016). He has published extensively, including in La Revue de l’Art, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Journal of Art Historiography, Bulletin Monumental, The Burlington Magazine, and Livraisons d’Histoire de l’Architecture. He curated the exhibition À la Source de l’Antique (2011) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, devoted to Italian, Russian, and French neo-classical architectural drawings, and he co-curated, with Nicholas Olsberg, the exhibition Civic Utopia, France 1765–1837 (2016–17) at the Courtauld Institute of Art. His current book project addresses the history of color in architectural representation from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century.


Lecture Tour | Wolf Burchard on Charles Le Brun

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on September 21, 2017

Wolf Burchard, The Sovereign Artist: Charles Le Brun and the Image of Louis XIV

• Charleston Library Society, Charleston
Tuesday, 26 September 2017, 6:00

• Institute of Classical Architecture and Art / Boston Design Center
Friday, 29 September 2017, 2:00

• Institute of Classical Architecture and Art / New York School of Interior Design
Thursday, 5 October 2017, 6:00

• National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Friday, 6 October 2017, 3:30

• The Bard Graduate Center, New York
Tuesday, 10 October 2017, 12:15

King Louis XIV’s favorite artist, Charles Le Brun (1619–1690) has often been described as a “dictator of the arts in France”—a view Burchard reassesses in his new book, The Sovereign Artist (Holberton 2017). Le Brun was a gifted and versatile artist, an excellent painter and designer of tapestries, sculpture, architecture, and furniture. As Louis XIV’s principal painter and director of the Gobelins manufactory, he sought to translate the Sun King’s claim for absolute power into a visual form. This lecture will explore Le Brun’s different fields of activities and his relationship to the great monarch.

Wolf Burchard, an art and architectural historian and a specialist on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century royal patronage, is the Furniture Research Curator at Britain’s National Trust. From 2009 to 2014 he was Curatorial Assistant at the Royal Collection Trust, where he assisted Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures, in curating The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy, 1714–1760, an exhibition held at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, to commemorate the tercentenary of George I’s accession to the British Throne. He studied history of art and architecture at the universities of Tübingen and Vienna as well as the University of London, where he earned the MA and PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art. He regularly publishes and lectures on art and architectural patronage at the British, French, and German courts. He is a Trustee of the Georgian Group and a member of the Committee of the Society for Court Studies and of the Events Committee and Editorial Panel of the Furniture History Society.








Workshop | Printing Time: French Almanacs

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on September 20, 2017

From the workshop programme:

Printing Time: Workshop on French Almanacs
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, Monday 16 October 2017

Almanac for the Year 1683 (The Universal Festivities), detail; published by Pierre Landry (ca. 1630–1701), Paris; etching, engraving and letterpress on paper (Waddesdon / National Trust, acc. no. 2669.4.3).

This is to announce a workshop at Waddesdon Manor in conjunction with the exhibition Glorious Years: French Calendars from Louis XIV to the Revolution. The workshop will explore themes around the production and consumption of French 17th-and 18th-century almanacs (book and print formats), while also looking at the broader context of the history of Time and its depiction during this period. Our distinguished speakers are drawn from across disciplines.

To register an interest in attending please email diane.bellis@nationaltrust.org.uk. A charge of £25 covers all catering costs. To secure a place, please call the Waddesdon booking office 01296 820414 (open 10:00–16:00) to pay using either a debit or credit card. If you have any dietary requirements, please let us know when you book your place.


10:00  Registration and coffee (Manor Restaurant)

10:30  Welcome and introduction by Pippa Shirley (Head of Collections, Waddesdon) and Rachel Jacobs (Curator, Waddesdon)

10:50  Morning Presentations
• Maxime Préaud (formerly conservateur général, département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Bibliothèque nationale de France), Les relations entre la France et l’Angleterre pendant le règne de Louis XIV, selon les almanachs muraux français
• Stephen Boyd Davis (Professor of Design Research, Royal College of Art), La Science des Temps: New Ideas of Time in the Eighteenth Century

12:10   Visit the exhibition Glorious Years with curator Rachel Jacobs and Adam Dant (Artist), The Mother of Parliaments: Annual Division of Revenue: A Print for the British Electorate, 2017. Information on Dant’s commissioned almanac is available here.

13:00  Lunch in Manor Restaurant

14:30  Afternoon Presentations
• Véronique Sarrazin (Maître de conférence d’histoire modern, Université d’Angers, Laboratoire CERHIO), Livres et estampes, deux économies de l’almanach dans la 1ère moitié du XVIIIe siècle à Paris
• Matthew Shaw (Librarian of the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study), Almanacs for a New Era: The French Republican Calendar

16:00  Drinks with a chance to visit the manor and exhibition



At Sotheby’s | Joseph Wright’s ‘An Academy by Lamplight’

Posted in Art Market by Editor on September 20, 2017

Press release via Art Daily (18 September 2017) . . .

Old Masters Evening Sale
Sotheby’s, London, 6 December 2017

Joseph Wright, An Academy by Lamplight, 1769, 127 × 102 cm.

The genius of Joseph Wright of Derby A.R.A. (1734–1797) will come under the spotlight this winter, when one of the artist’s most important candlelit pictures, and one of his last major works remaining in private hands, appears at auction at Sotheby’s. Painted in 1769, An Academy by Lamplight (lot #11) is a supreme example of Wright’s dramatic rendering of light and shade and his association with the Enlightenment movement. Almost certainly the picture that Wright exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769, this rare painting was first securely recorded in the collection of Sir Savile Crossley, 1st Baron Somerleyton (1857–1935), the scion of a great carpet manufacturing dynasty from Halifax, and has remained in the possession of his family ever since. One of the star lots of Sotheby’s London Old Masters evening sale on 6 December 2017, it will be offered with an estimate of £2.5–3.5 million, the highest estimate for a work by Joseph Wright of Derby ever at auction.

Julian Gascoigne, Senior Specialist, British Paintings at Sotheby’s said: “Joseph Wright of Derby is one of a small and select group of British 18th-century artists whose work transcends national boundaries and speaks to a wider global sensibility. Drama and passion are at the core of his oeuvre and this is particularly true of this exceptional painting. The artist’s masterful use of light brings to life the sensual antique statue and brilliantly captures the contemporary aesthetic infatuation with the art of the past. With its overt reference to the classical legend of Pygmalion, and the transformative power of art, this is one of the most important works by the artist to come to the market in recent years and we look forward to presenting it to collectors around the world.”

Joseph Wright of Derby is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most interesting and versatile painters and his greatest works, such as An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (National Gallery, London), The Orrery (Derby Museums and Art Gallery), and A Grotto in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) have become icons of British art the world over.

An Academy by Lamplight is one such masterpiece, and one of the artist’s most famous and celebrated works. This is the first of two versions of the subject painted by Wright and most likely the one he exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769—a period when Wright was rapidly establishing himself as one of the most exciting and innovative young artists in Britain. Whilst it has rarely been seen in public in the 250 years since, the other version, painted in 1770, was acquired by Paul Mellon in 1964 and is now in the collection at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven.

Nymph with a Shell, first century CE, marble (Paris: Louvre, photo from Wikimedia Commons). Roman copy of a Hellenistic type.

In An Academy by Lamplight, Wright of Derby tackles a subject with a long and illustrious history dating back to the first academies of art established during the Renaissance in Italy. Wright may have been inspired by the profusion of such organisations in 18th-century Europe and especially in Britain, where the Royal Academy in London was founded just a year before the work was painted, in 1768. The picture depicts six young draughtsmen contemplating the cast of Nymph with a Shell, an antique Hellenistic statue much admired in the 18th century when it was housed in the Villa Borghese in Rome. Today it can be found in the Louvre.

Wright was closely associated with the key members of the Enlightenment and, in particular, with the group of scientists and industrialists who made up the intriguing Lunar Society. A peculiarly 18th-century fusion of science, the arts, philosophy and literature, the Society’s members challenged accepted beliefs and pushed the boundaries of scientific and intellectual exploration, counting among its members leading figures like Josiah Wedgewood, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestly, and Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles). Though Wright himself was never officially a member of the Lunar Society, he was intimately bound up in that world of intellectual, scientific and, commercial enterprise and drew succour from its activities, which forms the spiritual core of his art.

Wright ‘candlelit’ pictures, with their dazzling use of chiaroscuro, are in many ways the artistic manifestation of the intellectual endeavours of these luminaries of the Enlightenment: the introduction of light into darkness acting as a metaphor for the transition from religious faith to scientific understanding and enlightened rationalism.

Note (added 7 December 2017) — Wright’s An Academy by Lamplight sold for £7,263,700 (hammer price with buyer’s premium).