Online Symposium | Sea Machines

Posted in conferences (to attend), online learning by Editor on January 21, 2022

From the symposium website:

Sea Machines
Online, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, 4 February 2022

Organized by Christy Anderson and Jason Nguyen

Sea Machines is a one-day symposium (held on Zoom) that interrogates marine technology for the history and theory of architecture. From canoes and cargo ships to submarines and offshore drilling rigs, maritime vessels show how design has been employed to imagine, manoeuvre, conquer, and exploit the environments and ecosystems of the sea.

The sea has long been cast as the inverse of the habitable terracentric world. Depictions of storms, shipwrecks, and underwater monsters haunt the art and literature of coastal societies, serving as warnings to those who might venture into the blue expanse. Yet, across cultures and throughout history, humans have constructed elaborate structures to facilitate the crossing and even occupation of the ocean.

Recent scholarship in the blue humanities has shed light on the profound ways that oceans influence politics, economics, science, and culture. Aquatic environments have conditioned everything from human diets, artistic traditions, trade networks, and settlement patterns. Whereas architects and historians have studied harbours and ports, far fewer have looked at the vessels that traversed and inhabited the open water. These ‘sea machines’ signal the outer limits of a period and place’s techno-environmental imagination. What architectonic skills did designers, shipwrights, and navigators employ in the construction and operation of ocean structures? How did the forms and materials of water-based vessels speak to larger ideological and environmental forces, including those tied to colonization and slavery, capitalism, and the climate? And how might infrastructure linked to offshore extraction (e.g., fishing, pearl farming, coral and deep-sea mining, oil drilling, etc.) provide a specifically architectural way to evaluate the relationship between human and non-human entities across the land and sea divide?

Sea Machines brings together members of the Daniels Faculty and a diverse roster of internationally recognized scholars and practitioners with an interest in environmental history, technology, and design. The study of maritime spaces is timely and of wide interest for scholars and practitioners across the design disciplines, especially given the sea’s increasing precarity in the face of climate change. Ultimately, the symposium highlights the central role played by architecture in charting a future environmental and technological reality.

The event is free and open to the public. More information on the symposium and its speakers, including registration and Zoom information, is available here.


10.00  Opening Remarks by Christy Anderson and Jason Nguyen

10.30  Session 1: Infrastructure
• Keller Easterling, ISO 1161
• Carola Hein, Oil on Water: The Global Petroleumscape and the Urbanization of the Sea
• Prita Meier, Below the Waterline: Dhows and the Politics of Heritage in the African Indian Ocean

11.30  Discussion

11.50  Lunch Break

1.00  Session 2: Culture
• Niklas Maak, Phalansteries at Sea: Fourier, Le Corbusier, and the Architecture of the Cruiseship
• Meredith Martin and Gillian Weiss, Sun King at Sea
• Elliott Sturtevant, Traveling the Heat Line: The ‘Great White Fleet’ as Climatic Media

2:00  Discussion

2.20  Break

2.30  Session 3: Energy
• Sara Rich, Naufragic Architecture in the Anthropocene
• Margaret Schotte, Water vs. Wood: Desalination Machines and the Shipboard Space, c. 1695
• Larrie Ferreiro, The Evolution of the Naval Architect, 1600–2000

3.30  Discussion

4.00  Closing Remarks by Christy Anderson and Jason Nguyen

Resource | New Decorative Arts Calendar Unveiled

Posted in resources by Editor on January 20, 2022

From the press release (12 January 2022):

The Decorative Arts Trust Launches ‘Events in the Field’

The Decorative Arts Trust invites institutions to submit decorative arts programs and welcomes participants to browse listings on the new Events in the Field online calendar. Events in the Field, at eventsinthefield.com, features scholarly programs from dozens of art and history organizations. The calendar’s goal is to serve as a resource for those seeking to promote or find virtual or in-person decorative arts opportunities, from lectures and panel discussions to workshops and conferences.

“The Events in the Field initiative reinforces our effort to serve as a partner for the full breadth of the decorative arts community,” shares Matthew A. Thurlow, Executive Director of the Trust. “Whether you are a dedicated collector of 18th-century porcelain or an undergraduate student seeking an introduction to this field of study, Events in the Field will feature a range of opportunities that might not appear elsewhere. We are happy to provide this service to the field and hope the calendar will offer an opportunity to promote the excellent programs developed by colleagues from coast to coast.”

The generous 2022 Events in the Field sponsor is The Magazine Antiques, which celebrates its centennial this year.

The Decorative Arts Trust is a non-profit organization that promotes and fosters the appreciation and study of the decorative arts through exchanging information through domestic and international programming; collaborating and partnering with museums and preservation organizations; and underwriting internships, research grants, and scholarships for graduate students and young professionals. Learn more about the Trust at decorativeartstrust.org.

Author Talks | Highlighting New Books from the Mellon Centre

Posted in books, lectures (to attend) by Editor on January 20, 2022

This spring, you’re invited to a series of talks by authors of books recently published by the Paul Mellon Centre. Each author will give a glimpse into their project, sharing insights about the process of researching, writing, and publishing their book. Each event consists of two talks of around 20 minutes each, followed by a discussion and Q&A session. All events take place from 18.30 to 20.00. More information, including booking details, is available from the Mellon Centre.

Henrietta McBurney and Joseph Viscomi | Illustrations and Illuminations
Online, 2 February 2022

In the first of these events, Henrietta McBurney will discuss her book Illuminating Natural History: The Art and Science of Mark Catesby, and Joseph Viscomi will speak about William Blake’s Printed Paintings. Together, the authors will consider how art and cultural histories tackle issues around illustration, copies, copying, and originality, as well as questions of professional status, authorial voice, and vision. The evening will be chaired by British Art Network convener, Martin Myrone. Register here»

Matthew Craske and Martin Postle | In Darkness and In Light: Rethinking Joseph Wright of Derby
Online and in-person, Paul Mellon Centre, London, 16 February 2022

Join Matthew Craskeauthor of Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Darkness (published by the Paul Mellon Centre, 2020; winner of the 2021 William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History) and Martin Postle, Senior Research Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre, who is working on a catalogue raisonné on Joseph Wright of Derby’s paintings, for an evening of talks and discussion. Together, the authors will consider how the output of a single artist is rewritten and reimagined at different historical moments. The conversation will be chaired by PMC Director, Mark Hallett. Register here»

Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Max Donnelly and Andrea Wolk Rager, | Aesthetic Encounters
Online, 9 March 2022

In the third of these events, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Max Donnelly will speak about their research for their book Daniel Cottier: Designer, Decorator, Dealer; and Andrea Wolk Rager will discuss The Radical Vision of Edward Burne-Jones (which will be published in May 2022). Together, the authors will consider new approaches to studying art, craft, and design of the nineteenth century and the intersection of art, social, and political history for creating richer understandings of the work of the artists and art workers they have researched. The conversation will be chaired by Liz Prettejohn. Register here»

Cora Gilroy-Ware and Sean Willcock | War and Peace: Rethinking Aesthetics in the Age of Empire
Online and in-person, Paul Mellon Centre, London, 16 March 2022

In the fourth of these events, Cora Gilroy-Ware will speak about her research rethinking the sculpted body The Classical Body in Romantic Britain, and Sean Willcock will discuss Victorian Visions of War & Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty, and Violence in the British Empire. Together, the authors will consider how their research has questioned assumptions about aesthetics and style in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, researching overlooked artists, and discuss the intersections of the body, gender, race, and empire through their work on sculpture and photography. They will also talk about the process of turning a PhD thesis into a book manuscript. The conversation will be chaired by PMC Head of Research and Learning, Sria Chatterjee. Register here»

Adriano Aymonino and Manolo Guerci | Grand Designs and Great Houses
Online and in-person, Paul Mellon Centre, London, 23 March 2022

In the fifth and final of these events, Adriano Aymonino, author of Enlightened Eclecticism: The Grand Design of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, and Manolo Guerci, author of London’s ‘Golden Mile’: The Great Houses of the Strand, 1550–1650, will come together to discuss discoveries made in writing their books about ambitious architectural commissions. They will consider the possibilities and the losses of the archive, issues around writing about designs of great scale (both extant and destroyed), and how to research campaigns of design, patronage and collecting stretching over a number of decades. The conversation will be chaired by Kate Retford. Register here»

Online Talk | Corey Brennan on the Villa Aurora

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on January 19, 2022

The sale of the Casino di Villa Ludovisi (Villa Aurora) has—understandably—generated lots of media attention (see the full announcement for press links), and at least some of the finds have involved the eighteenth century . . .

T. Corey Brennan, Inside the ‘World’s Most Expensive Home’: A Decade of Rutgers Research at the Villa Aurora in Rome
Online, 20 January 2022, noon (EST)

The Villa Aurora in Rome—for precisely 400 years the home of the papal Boncompagni Ludovisi family—will go on auction this month with an asking price of $532 million dollars. Called by one leading art historian a “sort of seventeenth-century Sistine Chapel,” the Villa Aurora boasts famous mural art by more than a dozen major artists, including a unique 1597 ceiling painting by Caravaggio. In this richly illustrated talk, Professor Corey Brennan will discuss this landmark sale, his decade-long collaboration with the owners—†HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi—and the discoveries inside the Villa made with over two dozen Rutgers undergraduate students. This virtual presentation, open to the public, will take place on Thursday, 20 January 2022, 12:00–1:00pm (EST). Registration information is available here.

In Memoriam | Jonathan Brown (1939–2022)

Posted in obituaries by Editor on January 19, 2022

NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts mourns the loss of Jonathan Brown, who passed away at his home in Princeton, New Jersey on January 17, 2022, at the age of 82. Jonathan first joined the Institute in 1973 as its Director, a position he held for five years. He remained at the Institute as the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts until his retirement in 2017. A distinguished colleague and world-renowned scholar of Spanish and Viceregal Mexican art, his contributions to the field will live on for generations to come through his students and his noteworthy publications. Edward Sullivan, Robert Lubar-Messeri, and Richard Kagan have written a remembrance available here. A celebration of Jonathan’s life and work is planned for later in the spring.

Colloquium | The Myth of Versailles and European Courts

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on January 18, 2022

Schloss Versailles. Eingang zum Schloßhof. Album des vingt-deux vues de Versailles commandé par Louis II de Bavière à Jobst Riegel, aquarelle, 1876, V.2017.11. Château de Versailles. 

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From Versailles and the conference programme:

The Myth of Versailles and European Courts, 17th–20th Centuries
Le mythe de Versailles et l’Europe des cours, XVIIe–XXe siècles
Auditorium du château de Versailles, 27–29 January 2022

Colloque international organisé par le Centre de recherche du château de Versailles dans le cadre de son programme de recherche « Identités curiales et le mythe de Versailles en Europe : perceptions, adhésions et rejets (XVIIIeXIXe siècles) ». Il se tiendra les 27, 28 et 29 janvier 2022 à l’auditorium du château de Versailles. Les communications seront données en français et en anglais. Le colloque sera également diffusé en direct sur la chaîne Youtube du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles. L’accès à la retransmission ne nécessite pas d’inscription préalable.

J E U D I ,  2 7  J A N V I E R  2 0 2 2

9.30  Accueil

9.35  Ouverture au nom du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles par Mathieu da Vinha, directeur scientifique

9.45  Introduction, Gérard Sabatier (professeur émérite, université de Grenoble II / directeur du programme CRCV « Identités curiales et le mythe de Versailles en Europe : perceptions, adhésions et rejets (XVIIIe–XIXe siècles) »)

10.00  Session I: La diffusion du mythe
Présidence de séance : Philip Mansel, président du Comité scientifique du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles / The Society for Court Studies
• Flavie Leroux (Centre de recherche du château de Versailles), Témoignages de visiteurs étrangers, XVIIe–XIXe siècles
• Johanna Daniel (Institut national d’Histoire de l’Art / Université Lyon 2), La vue d’optique, vecteur de diffusion du mythe versaillais dans la culture visuelle du XVIIIe siècle
• Sylvie Requemora-Gros (Aix Marseille Université), Le voyage encomiastique ou la fabrique du Songe de Versailles

12.30  Déjeuner

14.30  Session I: La diffusion du mythe, cont.
• Stefanie Leibetseder (chercheur indépendante, Berlin), Advertising or Demonizing the Myth? 18th-Century Travellers from Germany in Versailles
• Charles-Éloi Vial (Bibliothèque nationale de France / Sorbonne Université), Visiter Versailles sous l’Empire et la Restauration : musée, palais ou lieu de mémoire ?

16.00  Pause

16.15  Session II: Visiter Versailles, impressions personnelles
Présidence de séance : Marie-Christine Skuncke, professeur émérite de littérature, Uppsala Universitet
• Philip Mansel (Centre de recherche du château de Versailles / The Society for Court Studies), Versailles in England, from Charles II to George IV: Influences, Appropriations, and the Entente Cordiale
• Katarzyna Kuras (Université Jagellonne de Cracovie, Institut d’histoire), La famille Jabłonowski à Versailles au XVIIIe siècle. Impressions et inspiration

V E N D R E D I ,  2 8  J A N V I E R  2 0 2 2

9.30  Session II: Visiter Versailles, impressions personnelles, cont.
• Ferenc Tóth (Centre de recherches en sciences humaines, Institut d’histoire, Budapest), Entre fascination et désillusion. Attitudes des nobles hongrois devant la cour de Versailles à l’époque des Lumières
• Éric Hassler (Université de Strasbourg), Versailles en Empire : les symptômes d’un mythe versaillais dans l’espace germanique dans la littérature de voyage germanique au XVIIIe siècle
• Sabrina Norlander Eliasson (Stockholm University, Department of Culture and Aesthetics), ‘A Landmark of the Transience of All Earthly Greatness, Glory, and Power!’ Versailles and the Myth of the Ancien Régime in the Writings and Collections of the Swedish Marquis Claes Lagergren (1853–1930)

12.00  Session III: La fabrique du faste
Présidence de séance : Maciej Forycki, maître de conférences en histoire moderne, Uniwersytet Adam Mickiewicz, Poznań
• Arianna Giorgi (Université de Murcie), en visioconférence, Habits, couleurs et boutons : mythe, rang et étiquette de la cour de Versailles chez les ducs d’Osuna

12.45  Déjeuner

14.30  Session III: La fabrique du faste, cont.
• Friedrich Polleroß (Université de Vienne, Institut für Kunstgeschichte), L’influence de Versailles à la cour de Vienne
• Thierry Franz (château de Lunéville / université de Lorraine), Lunéville au miroir de Versailles. La matérialisation du cérémonial à la cour de Lorraine, reflet d’un regard distancié sur le modèle français (1698–1737)
• Maureen Cassidy-Geiger (Independent Curator and Scholar, New York), en visioconférence, Versailles and Dresden: Myths and Models
• Raphaël Masson (Château de Versailles), L’univers versaillais de Louis II de Bavière : le cas de Linderhof

S A M E D I  ,  2 9  J A N V I E R  2 0 2 2

9.30  Session IV: Versailles en Europe : transferts culturels
Présidence de séance : Gérard Sabatier, professeur émérite, université de Grenoble II
• Dmitri Gouzévitch (EHESS / Centre d’Études des Mondes russe, caucasien et est-européen) et Irina Gouzévitch (EHESS / Centre Maurice Halbwachs), Le mythe de Versailles comme élément fondateur des « habits pour l’empire » de Pierre Ier : influence et parallélisme
• Andrea Merlotti (Reggia di Venaria, Centro studi delle Residenze Reali Sabaude), en visioconférence, Un mythe ambigu. Les « Versailles d’Italia » (XIX–XXe siècles)
• Jonathan Spangler (Manchester Metropolitan University), Between Habsburg and Bourbon: The Court of Lorraine as a Blended Model of Court Culture and a Symbol of Political Neutrality
• Pablo Vázquez Gestal (Boston University / CNRS / Sorbonne Université, Centre Roland Mousnier), Un mythe à deux sens. Versailles et les monarchies bourboniennes de l’axe méditerranéen (1715–1788)


Exhibition | Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 17, 2022

Now on view at the National Gallery:

Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude
National Gallery, London, 10 December 2021 — 18 April 2022

Kehinde Wiley is an American artist best known for his portraits that render people of colour in the traditional settings of Old Master paintings. Most famously, in 2017, he was commissioned to paint Barack Obama, becoming the first Black artist to paint an official portrait of a president of the United States. Wiley’s work makes reference to the canon of European portraiture by positioning contemporary Black sitters, from a range of ethnic and social backgrounds, in the poses of the original historical, religious, or mythological figures. His images—as part quotation, part intervention—raise questions about power, privilege, identity, and above all highlight the absence or relegation of Black figures within European art.

In this exhibition, Wiley shifts his focus from one European tradition, Grand Manner portraiture, to another, landscape painting. Through new artworks—five paintings and a six-channel digital film—Wiley looks at European Romanticism and its focus on epic scenes of oceans and mountains, building relationships with the National Gallery’s collection of historical landscapes and seascapes by Turner, Claude, Vernet, and Friedrich. Like Wiley’s earlier paintings, this new work will look back at Old Masters as a way to create new connections and raise fresh questions.


Exhibition | Gainsborough’s Blue Boy

Posted in exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on January 17, 2022

Opening this month at the National Gallery:

Gainsborough’s Blue Boy
National Gallery, London, 25 January — 15 May 2022

In the winter of 1922, Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy hung at the National Gallery in London for three weeks before it sailed across the Atlantic to its new home in California. It was a public farewell to a beloved painting. 100 years later (to the day), Gainsborough’s masterpiece returns to the Gallery to go on display in Trafalgar Square once again.

On a child-sized canvas, the young subject is dressed in a striking blue costume; he is bright-eyed yet serious, shy yet direct. The identity of the boy in blue is uncertain; more importantly, he is a stand-in for all boys and the idea of childhood. Through a series of high-profile exhibitions, widely published reproduction prints, and countless copies by artists down the ages, he has become one of Britain’s most beloved sons.

The Blue Boy represents the best of 18th-century British art. It is Gainsborough’s eloquent response to the legacy of Van Dyck and grand manner portraiture. It is a proud demonstration by Gainsborough of what painting can achieve. The popularity and influence of the painting have made it an icon, which has been quoted by contemporary artists and referenced in Hollywood films. After exactly 100 years, this exhibition reunites The Blue Boy with the British public and with the paintings that inspired it. This is the first time the painting has been loaned by The Huntington—it is a once-in-a-century opportunity to see this iconic work in the UK.

S E L E C T E D  P R O G R A M M I N G

Paterson Joseph in Conversation
Friday, 18 February 2022, 6.30pm

Paterson Joseph in the title role of his play Sancho: An Act of Remembrance, 2018 (Photograph by Robert Day).

Acclaimed actor and writer Paterson Joseph considers the legacies created by Gainsborough’s portraits of Ignatius Sancho and The Blue Boy. Joseph has extensively researched the 18th-century Black writer and composer Ignatius Sancho, whose portrait by Gainsborough is found in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. In conversation with Christine Riding, the Jacob Rothschild Head of the Curatorial Department, Joseph will explore the narratives created through Gainsborough’s work, revealing a portrait of 18th-century Britain and how it is remembered today.

Paterson Joseph is an actor and writer. His work includes stints at the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as roles in Peep Show, Timeless, Noughts and Crosses, and Vigil. Films include The Beach, Aeon Flux, and In The Name of the Father. He is the author of the monodrama Sancho: An Act of Remembrance and Julius Caesar and Me: Exploring Shakespeare’s African Play. His debut novel The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho will be published in October 2022 by Dialogue Books.

Curator’s Introduction: Gainsborough’s Blue Boy
Monday, 28 February 2022, 1.00pm

Join Christine Riding, the Jacob Rothschild Head of the Curatorial Department, for this lunchtime talk to learn more about this iconic image of childhood, which has been a source of inspiration for contemporary artists and referenced in Hollywood films. A recording will be available on Youtube.

Exhibition | Gainsborough’s Pink Boy Conserved

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 17, 2022

Opening this spring at Waddesdon:

Thomas Gainsborough: The Pink Boy Conserved
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, opening spring 2022

The Morning Room at Waddesdon Manor, with Thomas Gainsborough’s 1782 Portrait of Francis Nicholls (‘Pink Boy’), before cleaning.

Thomas Gainsborough’s Pink Boy, one of the most popular paintings at Waddesdon, is being cleaned this winter. A special display will reveal it anew, freed from a discoloured varnish, alongside three other Waddesdon Gainsboroughs that depict boys in so-called ‘Vandyke’ dress.

The Pink Boy is a more youthful counterpart of the famous Blue Boy (on exceptional loan to the National Gallery on London, 25 January – 15 May 2022 from the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California). Like him, Pink Boy wears an 18th-century fancy-dress version of 17th-century clothes. The Pink Boy is as much a showpiece of Gainsborough’s skill, demonstrating its relationship to the art of the past and to modernity, as it is a portrait of the particular sitter, Master Francis Nicholls.

Portraits of Lord Alexander Douglas-Hamilton and Lord Archibald Hamilton demonstrate how Gainsborough used different types of ‘Vandyke’ costume and contrasting painting techniques to differentiate the relative rank and age of two aristocratic brothers. The portrait of the artist’s nephew and pupil Gainsborough Dupont is among his most intimate and scintillating works, conjuring the teenager’s individuality and inner consciousness as much as the shimmer of light on silk.

Exhibition | 100 Great British Drawings

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 15, 2022

William Blake, Hecate or The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy, 1795, planographic color print with pen and ink and watercolor on wove paper, 16 3/8 × 22 inches (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

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The exhibition opens this summer; the catalogue is scheduled to appear this month from Lund Humphries. From the press release (13 December 2021) . . .

100 Great British Drawings
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, 18 June — 5 September 2022

Curated by Melinda McCurdy

Rarely seen highlights from The Huntington’s premier collection of British drawings and watercolors spotlight top artists working in the medium from the 17th to the mid-20th century.

100 Great British Drawings, a major exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, will trace the practice of drawing in Britain from the 17th through the mid-20th century, spotlighting The Huntington’s important collection of more than 12,000 works that represent the great masters of the medium. On view from June 18 until September 5, 2022, in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, the exhibition will feature rarely seen treasures, including works by William Blake, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, and J. M. W. Turner, as well as examples by artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and early 20th-century modernism. A fully illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition, examining for the first time the strength and diversity of The Huntington’s British drawings collection, a significant portion of which has never been published before. The Huntington is the sole venue for the exhibition.

Paul Sandby, Band Box Seller, ca. 1760, brush and black ink and wash with red and yellow watercolor over traces of graphite on laid paper, 8 × 6 1/4 inches (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

“The Huntington is renowned for its incomparable collection of British art, ranging from 15th-century silver to the graphic art of Henry Moore, with the most famous works being, of course, our grand manner paintings,” said Christina Nielsen, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum at The Huntington. “Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie often serve as the poster boy and poster girl for the whole institution. But what most visitors do not realize is that The Huntington is also home to an extensive and remarkable collection of British drawings. This exhibition and catalog, the first to show the range of our British works on paper on such a scale, seek to fill that knowledge gap.”

Most of The Huntington’s British drawings collection, with a few notable exceptions, was established after the time of the institution’s founders, Henry and Arabella Huntington. Henry was an avid collector of rare books and manuscripts, and his wife, Arabella, was the force behind their collection of paintings and decorative art, but drawings did not factor largely into their art purchases. It was Robert R. Wark, curator of the art collections from 1956 to 1990, whose vision and tenacity established The Huntington as an outstanding repository of drawings made in Britain, where the art form was especially well developed, particularly in the late 18th to mid-19th century.

“Drawing is the most spontaneous and intimate of art forms, revealing the thoughts and mood of the artist through the stroke of a pen or touch of a brush dipped in watercolor,” said Melinda McCurdy, curator of British art, curator of the exhibition, and author of the catalog. “It is a practice especially associated with British artists, whose serious engagement with the medium is on vibrant display in the works we highlight in this exhibition.”

Matilda Conyers, Wallflower and Tulip, 1767, watercolor and opaque watercolor over traces of graphite with brown ink (est. iron gall) inscriptions on vellum, 9 × 6 1/4 inches (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

Organized chronologically, 100 Great British Drawings will explore portraiture, historical subjects, landscape, still life, botanical illustration, and caricature. The works on view will represent a full range of styles, including quick pencil sketches that candidly reveal artists’ creative processes, fluid pen-and-ink studies that approach the quality of finished works, and highly refined watercolor paintings.

The art of drawing first flourished in Britain in the late 17th century with an influx of artists coming from continental Europe, where the practice was commonly a part of artistic training. British artists also traveled abroad to view and copy the works of Europe’s old masters and contemporary artists. While portraiture was the most popular British art form at the time (as polished works by John Greenhill and Edmund Ashfield demonstrate in the exhibition), British artists eventually embraced a wide range of subjects, from landscape painting to history painting, a genre that appealed to such 18th-century titans as Thomas Gainsborough and George Romney.

Romney was unique among his peers in that he saw drawing as an end in and of itself, rather than merely a tool in preparation for oil painting. His Cimon and Iphigenia (early 1780s) was inspired by a tale from Boccaccio’s Decameron, and it captures the moment at which shepherd Cimon first spies his love, Iphigenia, asleep with two other women. Romney chose to depict Iphigenia in a sensual embrace with one of the women, using sweeping strokes of ink to imbue the scene with energy and passion. Cimon is barely present—cut off on the left of the frame—adding a suggestion of erotic voyeurism to Romney’s interpretation.

Even William Blake, famous for his unique imagination, betrays his European influences in Hecate or The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy (1795). Made by using a complex mix of printing techniques, drawing, and watercolor, Hecate depicts the witchlike mythological figure with musculature that recalls Michelangelo’s female forms, which were sketched from male nudes. By applying Michelangelo’s approach, Blake gives Hecate a powerful physique that suggests an unnatural, occult strength. The large-scale work is drawn from The Huntington’s William Blake collection, which was established by Henry Huntington himself and easily ranks among the most important Blake collections in the world.

Most of the works in The Huntington’s British drawings collection are from the 18th and 19th centuries, when drawings and watercolors became popular commodities. Watercolors, though less forgiving than oil, allow artists to create luminous effects and are well suited to capturing the misty English climate. J. M. W. Turner was a master of these atmospheric effects. His Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey (ca. 1825–36) uses layered washes of color to create a soft fog that obscures people, horses, buildings, and ships, blending the line between sea and land. In its exploration of artistic techniques, the exhibition will look at the pigments and paper that artists used. Turner, for example, required a strong paper that could withstand his method, described by an eyewitness as first saturating the paper with wet paint. Then, “he tore … scratched … scrabbled at it in a kind of frenzy” until the image emerged as if by “magic … with all its exquisite minutia.”

By the mid-19th century, transparent watercolor technique gave way to an interest in opaque pigments or gouache, in keeping with a Victorian-era taste for sharp-focus realism. Many of the Victorian works in the exhibition were created as illustrations to poems or stories, including Samuel Palmer’s watercolor and gouache Lonely Tower (ca. 1881), which was inspired by John Milton’s Il Penseroso, and popular children’s book illustrator Kate Greenaway’s watercolor and graphite Now All of You Come Listen (ca. 1879). Some works from this period—such as those by artist Edward Burne-Jones, who was associated with the Pre-Raphaelites and collaborated with designer William Morris—demonstrate a turn away from realism toward pure “art for art’s sake,” a notion affiliated with the Aesthetic movement.

Drawings from the first half of the 20th century reveal the extraordinarily wide array of artistic styles that were emerging at the time. Many of The Huntington’s works from the period are by artists from the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where students studied abstraction, French Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. A highlight of this group is Gwen John’s Two Hatted Women in Church (1920s), a work in water-based transparent paint that she made when living in France. John attended church there regularly, where she would draw the congregation, focusing less on the individuals and more on the shapes she saw in their clothing, their varying postures, and the chairs they sat on. John asserts her modernism in the painting, said McCurdy, as she “wittily juxtaposes two differently shaped hats, abbreviating such descriptive details as facial features and composing the image with bold black outlines and broad washes of muted tones.” The exhibition includes several other arresting 20th-century works on paper in various styles by such artists as David Bomberg, Paul Nash, and John Piper.

The 20th-century works combine with the others in 100 Great British Drawings to create a display that reveals the infinitely diverse aspects of “mark making,” said Ann Bermingham, professor emeritus of the history of art and architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in her essay for the exhibition catalog. She concludes, “If The Huntington drawings speak to us over the distances of time and space, it is because they still hold in their linear grasp the thrill and promise of endless creativity.”

Originally part of The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration, this exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of Avery and Andrew Barth, Terri and Jerry Kohl, and Lisa and Tim Sloan. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Support for the catalog is provided by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

Melinda McCurdy, Ann Bermingham, and Christina Nielson, Excursions of Imagination: 100 Great British Drawings from The Huntington’s Collection (London: Lund Humphries, 2022), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1848224483, $45.

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