Conference | Rereading Constable

Posted in conferences (to attend), online learning by Editor on October 10, 2022

John Constable, Sir Richard Steele’s Cottage, Hampstead, 1831–32, oil on canvas, 21 × 29 cm
(New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B2001.2.25)

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From PMC:

Rereading Constable: Letters, Life, and Art
In-person and online, Paul Mellon Centre, London, 2 December 2022

Organized by Stephen Daniels and Mark Hallett

How do artists’ letters articulate professional and personal affiliations, embody networks, and forge allegiances? What role has letter writing played in artistic self-fashioning? In what ways do letters serve as a form of art-historical evidence, and help us understand works of art themselves?

R.B. Beckett’s multi-volume edition of Constable’s correspondence, published in six volumes by the Suffolk Records Society (1962–68), has long been recognised as an invaluable source for scholars working on the artist, and for all those interested in British art and culture in the late Georgian period. The published correspondence shows the painter to have been a shrewd, skilled writer, versed in a variety of literary, scientific, and biblical texts. His correspondents were, in turn, often highly articulate writers, including many family members, and many more with very different characters and backgrounds. Often utilised by art historians, the correspondence has more recently attracted the interest of scholars interested in the literary character and rhetorical conventions of nineteenth-century correspondence, who have subjected Constable’s letters to new kinds of critical scrutiny. This event will build on this important work, exploring Romantic art, culture, and society through the prism provided by the landscape painter’s correspondence.

The central structuring concept of this interdisciplinary conference is that speakers will focus on a single letter written by the artist, his correspondents, or other contemporary figures whose work, life, or letters can be understood in productive relation to Constable himself. These individual letters will be used to open up new questions and arguments about Constable’s life, practice, and identity as a painter, and about the wider artistic, literary, religious, and political cultures of his era.

Rereading Constable: Letters, Life, and Art has been organised as part of the PMC’s Generation Landscape research project. The conference is being convened by Stephen Daniels and Mark Hallett. Book tickets here.

We are offering up to five bursaries to support individuals who may not otherwise be able to attend the conference. Bursaries will cover the ticket price, travel, and some expenses, including childcare. If you would like to be considered for a bursary please email events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk with Rereading Constable Bursary in the subject field, outlining your request for a supported place by 10am, Friday, 4 November 2022.


9.30  Introduction by Mark Hallett (Paul Mellon Centre) and Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham)

10.00  Session 1 | Chair: Stephen Daniels
• Alexandra Harris (University of Birmingham), New Friends, New Scenes: Constable in the Arun Valley
• Amy Concannon (University of York and Tate Britain), Strengthening Ties and Gaining Esteem: Constable Writes to Wordsworth, 15 June 1836

11.00  Tea and Coffee Break

11.30  Session 2 | Chair: Martin Postle (Paul Mellon Centre)
• Emma Roodhouse (Art Curator and Researcher), An Evening’s Amusement: Portraits, Writing, and Other Oddments from the Mason Family Album
• Sarah Cove (The Constable Research Project), A Regency ‘Nip-and-Tuck’: Constable’s Treslove Portraits Rediscovered

12.30  Lunch (provided by PMC)
Constable material available to view in the Public Study Room

1.30  Session 3 | Chair: Mark Hallett
• Morna O’Neill (Wake Forest University), John Constable, David Lucas, and Artistic Identity
• Katharine Martin (V&A and the University of Sussex), Translations and Fraught Relations: English Landscape and the Language of Collaboration

2.30  Break

2.45  Session 4 | Chair: Sarah Victoria Turner (Paul Mellon Centre)
• Gillian Forrester (Independent Scholar), ‘Solemnity, Not Gaiety’: Language and the Production of Meaning in Constable’s English Landscape Scenery
• Elenor Ling (The Fitzwilliam Museum), The ‘Definition of our Book’: John Constable, David Lucas, and their English Landscape

3.45  Tea and Coffee Break

4.15  Session 5 | Chair: Sria Chatterjee (Paul Mellon Centre)
• Rhian Addison McCreanor (University of York and Tate Britain), Repairing the House with a Thorough Painting: Reimagining 63 Charlotte Street
• Nicholas Robbins (University College London), The Life Academy and the Origins of Landscape

5.15  Panel Discussion
Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham), Martin Myrone (Paul Mellon Centre), Trev Broughton (University of York), and Timothy Wilcox (Independent Scholar)

5.55  Closing Remarks by Mark Hallett

6.00  Drinks Reception

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