Enfilade

New Book | Art and Industry

Posted in books by Editor on May 20, 2021

Distributed in the US and Canada by The University of Chicago Press:

David Stacey, Art and Industry: Seven Artists in Search of an Industrial Revolution in Britain (London: Unicorn Publishing Group, 2021), 176 pages, ISBN: 978-1913491291, £25 / $38.

In seven linked essays, the author discusses paintings of industrial scenes by seven artists working in the period 1780–1830. Their unique and distinct responses to the subject-matter reveal a surprisingly coherent message. Joseph Wright of Derby invites us to consider the lives of the men, women and children working in Arkwright’s cotton mills at Cromford. John Opie, in his painting of a Cornish entrepreneur and a miner, acknowledges the value of new technology but leads us to reflect on class and the use of capital. Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg responds to the sublimity of the industrial landscape at Coalbrookdale but reveals the impact of an industry no longer subject to nature’s diurnal rhythms. Joseph Mallord William Turner presents an evolving response to the changes that Britain was undergoing. He observes with delight the opening up of pastoral scenery along the new canal routes but prompts the viewer to consider the environmental impact of industrial development. William Havell finds copper-mining employees in a place between heaven and hell in an industry subject to competition and the vagaries of demand. Penry Williams, in his paintings of ironworks at Merthyr Tydfil, raises the issue of the conditions that ironworkers and miners were facing as the gap widened between employer and employee. And the little-known and often-derided Henry Hawkins produces an image which lifts the lid on his slave-owning patron’s enterprise through an image of a slate quarry which suggests parallels with Dante’s Divine Comedy. Seven artists in search of an industrial revolution in Britain respond in their works with a coherent message on the impact of new technology, the use of capital and on conditions that saw the emergence of new social classes in Britain.

David Stacey is an independent art historian with a lifelong interest in British paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He has contributed articles to The British Art Journal, The Burlington Magazine, and other art history journals. He graduated with a degree in engineering science from the University of Oxford and has a postgraduate degree in the history of art from Birkbeck College, University of London. He has worked as an international water resources consultant in South and South-East Asia and the Middle East and is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He has two children and lives in London.

 

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