Call for Papers | Sensory Experience in 18th-Century Art Exhibitions

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 10, 2019

From ArtHist.net:

Sensory Experience in 18th-Century Art Exhibitions / L’expérience sensorielle dans les expositions d’art au XVIIIe siècle
Musée du Louvre, Paris, Autumn 2020; Louvre-Lens Museum, Spring 2021

Proposals due by 15 December 2019

Throughout the 18th century, the exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Painting in Paris—by setting the horizon of expectation—have created a habitus among European visitors and especially Parisians. Moreover, they have aroused the curiosity and the desire of the French public and of other nations who where inspired by the Salon. During this period, the Salon du Louvre became a highly popular event, where crowds gathered to see, be seen and to learn. Hence, the Salon embodied without any doubt the image of the Parisian social theatre and thus also indirectly that of the pleasure of the senses for educated European audiences. In other words, visiting the Salon or any other art exhibition in the 18th century, where the desire to be entertained and to learn was intertwined, presented itself as an experience in which the various senses were invoked and stimulated. The notion of a ‘sensory body’ becomes relevant: not only sight, but also the senses of hearing, taste, touch, and smell were interpolated in a varied and complex manner at various moments during the visit.

The conference will focus on the sensations that visitors felt during their experience of art exhibitions. The latter are to be understood in their broadest sense during the long 18th century (1665–1815). The starting point is the moment when the Salon du Louvre became the role model for a growing number of temporary exhibitions, in Paris and in French provinces, at the Royal Academy in London, and, more broadly in Europe. All other spaces of sociability where works of art were subjected to the critical gaze of the public must be taken into account: galleries and private art collections, royal collections, temporary exhibitions, auction rooms, museums… In the context of research about the history of sensibilities and senses, this conference thus aims at defining the new perceptions that flourish in the Age of Enlightenment by questioning the sensory experience and the constitution of the sensory body in the specific context of exhibition spaces.

The understanding of this sensory body in its entirety implicates numerous elements that play an essential role in its constitution. Given the richness of the topic related to the sensory experience in 18th-century art exhibitions, the conference will be divided into two sessions that will take place a few months apart, and in two different locations.

Session 1
The Experience of the Visit: From Spectator to Critic

This first session focuses on the sensory experience of the public when visiting an exhibition – whether it is a collection, a museum, or a temporary presentation of works of art. While 18th century art exhibitions in Europe contributed to urban identity, they also helped to define the identity of the larger public, as well as the single spectator, and the critic. It will be a question of capturing these actors, their visits to exhibitions, their sensory impressions, and the emergence of feelings as they developed along an exhibition tour, likewise further encounters with other visitors, with the spatial context and display of art. In order to encourage comparative research, we call for proposals on various exhibition spaces in various European cities, relating to the following two axes:

• The public, an individual or a group of individuals visiting the exhibition, engaged in the activity and experiences emotional, sensory and physical effects during the whole visit of the exhibition. The presence of other visitors, this more or less colourful crowd that implied a perpetual body interaction, as well as the view of the exhibition played a central role on the senses, the sensitivity and the body of each visitor. Within this audience, the writers that appear at the time of the exhibitions related these experiences to their readers, qualifying and theorizing them. Art criticism is thus no longer simply a primary source for art history, the history of the senses, and questions of reception, but becomes also a research subject by itself. How, in other words, did the sensations, emotions and feelings experienced by critics stimulate and transform art criticism itself? The reality and the sensory experience of the visitor are not necessarily the same in Paris as elsewhere in Europe: Hence, we would like to discover and understand these differences and similarities.

• The space and the exhibition, meaning the immediate environment, the exhibition design, but also the geographical territory with which the individual and its senses are engaged, play a central role in the experience of the spectator’s sensory body. By providing stimuli, they cause sensations and an intense and specific cognitive activity. What kind of effects did the dimensions of the room(s), the movements of the body in the space, the encounter with the art and the exhibition design, the lighting as well as the symbolic aspects of the space have on visitors’ sensory experiences, both in their expectation and during the visit of the exhibition? We will therefore focus on the different affects and effects that this experience catalyzed for each of the senses, sensations, and emotions that inhabited the spectator during and beyond the visit. An experience that is constituting an important part of the horizon of expectation for exhibitions. We can ask ourselves about the different approaches to installation and hanging, but also about the extent to which these approaches had an impact on visitors’ sensations, their perceptions, and their feelings, whatever nature they are, and on the evolution and constitution of their sensibility, of their sensitive body. What role do the symbolic and physical aspects of space play in this experience? How are these effects translated through the written word?

Session 2
The Experience of the Work of Art: From Emotion to Sensation

The second session is intended to invite reflection on the representation of emotions and human sensorium as well as on the reception of these elements when works of art were exhibited publicly in 18th-century Europe. The objective is to study how artists express their perception of the sensitive and the sensory, and how the spectator’s senses react while looking at the works. We will take into account all aspects of the Fine Arts (painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving) and consider also different genres (history, portrait, genre scene, landscape, still life). For this session, we call for proposals around two axes:

• The works, these modes of representation of feelings and the sensory, evoke the sensitivity of the artist as well as that of the human being in general. According to what theoretical and practical criteria did artists translate the spectrum of emotions, but also that of sensory perceptions through the represented body, its gestures, its personality traits or its staging? We are obviously thinking of the rules governing the representation of passions such as those of the ‘ut pictura poesis’, but especially of the attempts to renew them during the 18th century. It is not only a question of revisiting the interactions between theatrical staging and pictorial composition, but also of exploring all the components of mimesis, that is common to the Fine Arts and the performing arts, in order to reinforce the sensory and sensitive delight of art: expression, gestures, costume, decor, colour.

• The senses, (inter)linked with the organs of perception (sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch), are defined by and react to the contact with context, the exhibition as a whole, other individuals, and specific works of art. We would like to understand how the spectator’s senses apprehend, perceive—or even feel—the encounter with a particular work or with the ensemble of works. According to which criteria does sensory perception stop at the level of analysis and reasoning? When and how does this experience lead to a true reaction, whether it is sensitive, sensory or physical? We know that in the 18th century, the research on perception and cognition led to numerous publications on sensualist philosophy, physiology and physiognomy. How did artists consider these new contributions to the history of medicine, science and technology, and how did they translate them within their works? This axis will explore the boundaries between the experience of each of the senses and the relationships that emerge between them in order to get an overall picture of all the sensations and feelings provoked by specific works, particularly by those representing feelings, emotions and allusions to the senses. In this axis, priority will be given to proposals based on sources from various fields (history, literature, philosophy, but also science and medicine) in order to renew the reflection on the phenomenon of exhibitions.

Proposals for original contributions in English or French (title and abstract of up to 300 words and short CV of up to 250 words) should be sent by 15 December 2019 to corps.sensoriel@gmail.com
Response from the Scientific Committee: January 2020
Conference dates: Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021
Selected papers will be published after the conference.

Scientific Committee
Markus A. Castor (German Center for Art History, Paris)
Guillaume Faroult (Louvre Museum, Painting Department)
Dorit Kluge (hwtk, Berlin)
Gaëtane Maës (Université de Lille, IRHiS)
Françoise Mardrus (Louvre Museum, Dominique-Vivant Denon Center, Research and Collection Director)
Isabelle Pichet (UQTR, Québec)
Luc Piralla (Louvre-Lens Museum)

New Book | The New Town of Edinburgh

Posted in books by Editor on October 10, 2019

From Birlinn Ltd:

Clarisse Godard Desmarest, ed., The New Town of Edinburgh: An Architectural Celebration (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2019), 336 pages, ISBN: 978-1910900352, £40.

This collection of innovative essays celebrates the New Town of Edinburgh over the 250 years since its original creation. The contributing authors discuss the intellectual, economic, and political contexts that provided the impetus for the city of Edinburgh to expand north of the Old Town, and analyse the New Town’s unique architectural status in terms of its size, monumentality, and degree of preservation. For centuries, Scotland has pursued innovation, improvement, commerce, and contact with England and the Continent; and since medieval times it has been an urbanising land of planned towns. This book reflects on the constantly changing dialogue between Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns—from the eighteenth century to the present time—as the city became increasingly commercialised. It also compares Edinburgh’s New Town with more recent new towns elsewhere, notably nineteenth-century Dunedin in New Zealand and Scotland’s planned new-town movement of the twentieth century. The age of conservation is another of the central themes. By drawing on different approaches to the new town phenomenon in Scotland, this volume pays tribute to Scotland’s vibrant capital and offers insights into new research on Scotland’s urban development.

Clarisse Godard Desmarest is a lecturer at the University of Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, and a fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France. She specialises in Scottish architectural history and heritage, and has held fellowships at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), Edinburgh College of Art and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. She holds an ‘Agrégation in English’ and is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris. Her doctorate at the Sorbonne, jointly supervised by the University of Edinburgh, was awarded a national prize in France for the best thesis on a Scottish subject.

New Book | Calton Hill

Posted in books by Editor on October 10, 2019

From Birlinn Ltd:

Kirsten Carter McKee, Calton Hill and the Plans for Edinburgh’s Third New Town (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2018), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-1910900178, £25.

Calton Hill, on the eastern edge of Edinburgh’s centre, has a special relationship with the city. Development of the hill and its surrounding area (often referred to as Edinburgh’s ‘Third New Town’) began in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by a decision-making elite, who proposed to change the site from a rural periphery into the new urban core of the city. This book shows that the architecture and urban design on Calton Hill was a demonstration of Scotland’s cultural identity and political allegiance to the British State—as key enlightenment figures and theories were celebrated alongside the British naval heroes and the House of Hanover in the early stages of its development. However, as Scotland’s identity within Britain evolved through changes in governance in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Calton Hill—and all that its neo-Greek architecture came to represent—became a metaphor for the friction between Scottish and British Nationalism, resulting in it being considered a ‘Nationalist Shibboleth’ by the last years of the twentieth century. This book considers how the architectural expression of Calton Hill has been perceived, accepted and rejected as ideas surrounding cultural identity, governance and nationalism have changed over the last 200 years.

Kirsten Carter McKee is an architectural historian and cultural landscape specialist. She has a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and has worked for a number of organisations as an archaeologist, historic buildings specialist, and heritage consultant. She is currently a research and teaching fellow in architectural history and conservation at the University of Edinburgh.

%d bloggers like this: