Conference | (Un)Like: Life Writing and Portraiture

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on April 25, 2019

From King’s College:

(Un)Like: Life Writing and Portraiture, c.1700–the Present
King’s College London, Strand Campus, 3 May 2019

Portraiture and life-writing have long been understood as genres that, for all their differences, share key concepts. As both genres are concerned with the individual figure, they rely on particularities and specificities, on telling events and characteristic anecdotes and, most importantly, on a representative depiction of the subject in question which was similar or like. Resemblance, similarity, likeness—these were the terms by which works were judged. A letter to the Daily Gazetteer remarked in 1742: “I think it is agreed on all Hands that in Biography, as it is in Portrait Painting, a Likeness is to be preserved, if we would give satisfaction in either Science.” Importantly (and to complicate the study of likeness), the media concerned with likeness were likewise considered to be alike. The art theorist Jonathan Richardson famously wrote in 1715: “to sit for one’s Portrait is like to have an Abstract of one’s Life written and published, and to have one consigned over to Honour or Infamy.” Richardson referred to the long tradition of inter- or multi-media portraying and life-writing practices, the linking of literary with visual portraits for mutual benefit and the reciprocal bolstering of genres by providing additional information or another perspective. Next to resemblance and medial proximity, Richardson introduces a third aspect: appreciation or emotional response to portraits and biographies. Samuel Johnson would later write in the Idler no. 45 (1759) that “Every man is always present to himself, and has, therefore, little need of his own resemblance; nor can he desire it, but for the sake of those whom he loves, and by whom he hopes to be remembered.” Likeness, it appears, therefore intersects with the representation’s potential to make a person not only like, but also likeable, to have third parties appreciate both the individuals and their representations. This notion of recognition—understood as identification—being closely linked with respect and social approval still shows in such phenomena as Facebook and Instagram, where ‘to like’ equals acceptance, affirmation, or recommendation, signalling approval of the online persona.

This one-day conference explores the different layers of likeness in portraiture and life writing in Europe, from the beginning of the eighteenth century to the present day. Subjects include authors, inventors, painters, self-painters and selfie-takers, robots, realists, surrealists, expressionists, and others, from literature, painting, photography, and film. How does the concept of likeness appear, converge and change across these instances of portraying and portraiture?

Registration information is available here»


9.00  Welcome and Introduction by Clare Brant

9.15   Panel 1
• Franziska Gygax, Portraying (in) Language: Gertrude Stein’s Literary Portraits
• Max Saunders, Imaginary Portraits: Alfred Cohen and the Rabbi from Dublin
• Alex Belsey, Maintaining Distance: Techniques of Removal and Depersonalisation in the Work of Keith Vaughan

10.30  Panel 2
• Nadja Gernalzick, Queerly (Un)Recognizable: Jerome Hill’s Film Portrait
• Darragh O’Donoghue, Auto/biography in the Work of Disabled Artist Stephen Dwoskin

11.20  Coffee

11.35  Panel 3
• Tim Gorichanaz, Self-Portraiture: A Conceptual Exploration
• Eliza Maureen Altenhof, Describing One’s Self, Depicting One’s Self: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Literature and Visual Arts in the Context of Illness and Death
• Ksenia Gusarova, Posing as Oneself: Normativity and Individuality in Current Photographic Practice

12.15  Panel 4
• Santiago Gonzales Villajos, Portraying Miguel de Cervantes: An Enlightenment’s Task and Its Factual Deconstruction
• Emrys Jones, The Portrait on the Screen: Film Narrative and Eighteenth-Century Art
• Sofya Dmitrieva, Fancy Picture / Sujet de Caprice: Defining the Genre in the Eighteenth-Century European Painting

1.15  Lunch

2.00  Panel 5
• Claudine van Hensbergen, Behn’s Elusive Likeness, Portraiture’s Place in the Biographical Account
• Olivia Ferguson, ‘The Worst Part of Wordsworth’: Intimacy, Accuracy, and the Author Portrait in the Romantic Period
• Leigh Wetherall Dickson, Painting Celebrity: Capturing the Character of Lady Caroline Lamb

3.15  Panel 6
• Julian North, Portraits for the People: Margaret Gillies’s Portrait of Charles Dickens
• Alba Campo Rosillo, The Medium Makes Publicity: Materiality in The Inventor Portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy
• Ana Belén Martinéz García, Portraying the Activist Likeness as/in Intermedia Practice

4.30  Tea

5.00  Panel 7
• David Veltman, Portraiture as a Mirror: Transcending the Limits of Representativeness in Felix de Boeck’s ‘Double’ Portraits
• Martin Schieder, The Non-Pictorial Portrait: Armani Portrait-robot d’Iris Clert (1960)
• Teresa Bruś, Increase and Excess in Portraiture: S. I. Witkiewicz

6.15  Drinks

6.30  Discussion led by Kerstin Pahl and Kate Retford

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