Enfilade

Exhibition | Artful Nature: Fashion and Theatricality, 1770–1830

Posted in exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on January 28, 2020

Opening next week at the Lewis Walpole Library:

Artful Nature: Fashion and Theatricality, 1770–1830
Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, CT, 6 February — 22 May 2020

Curated by Laura Engel and Amelia Rauser

G. M. Woodward, ‘The Art of Fainting in Company’, 1797, hand-colored etching, Plate 7 from ‘An Olio of Good Breeding: With Sketches Illustrative of the Modern Graces!!’ (London, 1797).

Between 1770 and 1830, both fashionable dress and theatrical practice underwent dramatic changes in an attempt to become more ‘natural’. And yet this desire was widely recognized as paradoxical, since both fashion and the theater were longstanding tropes of artifice. In this exhibition, we examine this paradox of ‘artful nature’ through the changing conception of theatricality during these decades, as mirrored and expressed in fashionable dress. Theater and performance practices in the late eighteenth-century, including the vogue for private theatricals, reinforced the blurred lines between the theater and everyday life. Classical sculpture became a reference point for women, as its artistic excellence was acclaimed precisely because it seemed so ‘natural’. But when actresses, dancers, painters, or just regular fashionistas posed themselves as classical statues come to life, they acted as both Pygmalion and Galatea, both the genius artist and the living artwork. ‘Artful Nature’ refers simultaneously to the theatricality and deception typically attributed to fashionable women in the late eighteenth century, and at the same time to the potential survival strategies employed by women artists, authors, and actresses to craft their own parts. The exhibition is curated by Laura Engel, Professor of English at Duquesne University, and Amelia Rauser, Professor of Art History at Franklin & Marshall College.

P R O G R A M M I N G

Joseph Roach, Fashionable Enemies: Glamour as Argument, 1770–1830
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Thursday, 6 February, 5.30pm

Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Theater and Professor Emeritus of English, Yale University, will deliver a keynote lecture in association with the opening of the exhibition Artful Nature: Fashion and Theatricality, 1770–1830.

Amelia Rauser and Laura Engel, Artful Nature
Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Wednesday, 13 May, 7.00pm

Amelia Rauser and Laura Engel, the curators of Artful Nature: Fashion and Theatricality, 1770–1830, discuss the exhibition. The talk is presented in collaboration with the Farmington Libraries. Space is limited, and registration is required.

Performance: Mary Berry’s Fashionable Friends
Cowles House, Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Friday, 15 May

Under the direction of Laura Engel, a performance based on Mary Berry’s Fashionable Friends, acted as an amateur theatrical at Strawberry Hill in November 1801, is planned for May 15, 2020 in the newly restored eighteenth-century Cowles House on the campus of The Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, Connecticut.

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