Seminar | Anthony Downey and Maya Ganesh on AI and Images

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on March 2, 2023

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From the PMC:

Anthony Downey and Maya Ganesh | Neo-Colonial Visions: Artificial Intelligence and Epistemic Violence
In-person and online, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 15 March 2023, 5pm

Part of the series In Conversation: New Directions in Art History, which will explore the changing modes and methodologies of approaching visual and material worlds. Running from January to March 2023.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), often presented as an objective ‘view from nowhere’, constitutes a regime of power that further establishes historical forms of bias and evolving models of subjugation. A key component in this process, this presentation will suggest, involves the extraction of data from digital images in order to train AI. How, therefore, do we understand the transformation of images from their symbolic and representational contexts to their contemporary function as sources of digital data? Bringing together researchers in the field of visual culture and AI technology, and taking as its starting point the representational biases of colonial imagery, Anthony Downey and Maya Indira Ganesh will explore how the digital image has increasingly become the means to extract, archive and repurpose information. Based on the extraction and statistical repurposing of data, they will observe how AI renders entire communities susceptible to encoded and overt forms of epistemological violence. Designed for the purpose of training machine vision and the apparatus of AI, these repurposed “images” reveal, furthermore, how the extractive practices of colonialism have become inexorably aligned with corporate interests and neo-colonial economies of data extraction.

Book tickets here»

Anthony Downey is an academic, author, and editor. He is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa (Birmingham City University). He sits on the editorial boards of Third Text (Routledge), Journal of Digital War (Palgrave Macmillan), and Memory, Mind & Media (Cambridge University Press). He is the series editor for Research/Practice (Sternberg Press, 2019–ongoing). Recent and upcoming publications include Algorithmic Anxieties and Post-Digital Futures (forthcoming, MIT Press, 2024); Nida Sinnokrot: Palestine is Not a Garden (Sternberg Press and MIT Press, 2023); Khalil Rabah: Falling Forward/Works (1995–2025) (Sharjah Art Foundation and Hatje Cantz, 2022); Topologies of Air: Shona Illingworth (Sternberg Press and the Power Plant, 2021); and Heba Y Amin: The General’s Stork (Sternberg Press, 2020). Downey is the cultural and commissioning lead on a four-year multi-disciplinary AHRC Network Plus award, where his research focuses on cultural practices, digital methods, and educational provision for children with disabilities in Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Jordan (2020–2024). This award was preceded by an AHRC Development award in 2019. In 2020, Downey curated Heba Y. Amin: When I See the Future (at the Mosaic Rooms, London), and in 2022, he curated Heba Y. Amin: When I See the Future, Chapter II (Zilberman Gallery, Berlin).

Maya Indira Ganesh is a cultural scientist, researcher, and writer working on the social and cultural politics of AI, autonomous and machine learning systems. She is a senior researcher at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence and an assistant professor, co-teaching a masters programme on AI, ethics, and society at the University of Cambridge. Ganesh earned her PhD in cultural sciences from Leuphana University, Lüneburg. Her work examined the reshaping of the ‘ethical’ through the driverless car, an apparatus of automation and automobility, big data, cultural imaginaries of robots, and practices of statistical inference. Before turning to academic work, Maya Indira Ganesh spent a decade as a feminist activist working at the point of intersection of gender justice, digital security, and digital freedoms of expression. Her work has consistently brought questions of power, justice, and inequality to those of the body, the digital, and knowledge making.

Robbie Richardson and Ruth Phillips on Indigenous Objects Abroad

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on February 21, 2023

Profile of a smoking pipe on black background

Smoking-pipe, 1600–1750, soapstone, 9.5 × 10 × 5.5 cm (London: The British Museum, Am1991,09.1). As noted in the catalogue entry: “The pipe bowl is from the painter Benjamin West’s studio, and was used as a model in both Death of Wolfe and Penn’s Treaty with the Indians.”

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From the Mellon Centre:

Robbie Richardson and Ruth Phillip on Indigenous Objects Abroad
Online and in-person, Paul Mellon Centre, London, Wednesday, 1 March 2023, 5–7pm

Part of the series ‘In Conversation: New Directions in Art History’, which will explore the changing modes and methodologies of approaching visual and material worlds. Book tickets here.

Robbie Richardson | ‘Peace Pipes’ in Europe: Collecting the Calumet in the Eighteenth Century

This talk will consider early European collections of Indigenous tobacco pipes, often called ‘peace pipes’ or calumets (a word of French origin). Described as “the most mysterious thing in the world” by seventeenth-century Jesuits for their perceived power and significance among south-eastern nations, pipes would over time become one of the ubiquitous icons of Indigeneity in western eyes. Part of their inscrutability from the British perspective was that their own tobacco pipes were ephemeral and disposable, with many even still washing up daily on the shores of the Thames.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, one of the most popular trade goods which Europeans brought to Indigenous nations were steel European-manufactured ‘pipe-tomahawks’, which blended metaphors of peace and war. The manifestation of this transcultural object is itself revealing of the complex dynamics of material cultural production. Notwithstanding their provenance in Sheffield and Birmingham steel mills, pipe-tomahawks became widely collected as Indigenous curiosities by British soldiers and collectors. This talk will discuss British representations of Indigenous diplomacy and spirituality through their understanding and collecting of the calumet. It will look at several of the pipes that found their ways into European collections, to unravel Indigenous practices and agency.

Robbie Richardson is Assistant Professor of English at Princeton University and the author of The Savage and Modern Self: North American Indians in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2018). He has recent chapters in Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Nation of Makers (Bloomsbury, 2020) and in Small Things in the Eighteenth Century: The Political and Personal Value of the Miniature (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and forthcoming pieces in Studies in Romanticism, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation. He is currently working on a monograph about Indigenous objects from the Americas and South Pacific in Europe up until the end of the eighteenth century. He is a citizen of Pabineau Mi’kmaq First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada.

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Ruth Phillips | Curiosity and Belonging: Legacies of Eighteenth-Century Collecting in the Twenty-First Century

This talk will examine two contrasting modes of engagement between Europeans and Indigenous peoples in eighteenth-century North America and how these interactions led to the formation of public and private collections. It will urge that in the twenty-first century developing accurate understandings of eighteenth-century collecting practices can usefully disrupt assumptions about the restitution of Indigenous cultural belongings.

The periodic wars waged for colonial control of eastern North America brought tens of thousands of British, French, German and Swiss soldiers into the region. Both officers and common soldiers were avid collectors of curiosities for themselves, to present to patrons and family members, and to resell at a profit. Indigenous makers, for their part, actively produced finely made ornaments, pipes, moccasins and other items for the trade, acquiring in return: guns and tools that made hunting and warfare more effective; rum, tea, pottery, woollen cloth and printed cottons that made life more enjoyable; and silk ribbons, woollen yarn, glass beads, needles, thread and manufactured wampum beads that stimulated artistic creativity. There could also, however, have been other reasons for an Indigenous maker to produce these items for outsiders, for they were also presented in diplomatic negotiations to ratify treaty agreements and in ritual adoptions that transformed a military officer or a colonial official into a member of an Indigenous kin group who could be expected to support its interests.

Contemporary Indigenous peoples are actively tracing their cultural belongings in museum collections as part of a larger process of decolonisation that aims to recover histories of Indigenous agency and heal the damages and losses enacted by centuries of colonial rule. This talk argues that restitution, if conducted in ignorance of the historical circumstances of gifting or trade, risks, on the one hand, denying the agency of Indigenous peoples who chose to engage in curiosity production and, on the other, disappearing the material embodiments of agreements that, although made long ago, still demand to be recognised and honoured.

Ruth B. Phillips is Professor of Art History Emerita at Carleton University, Ottawa where she was also appointed to a Canada Research Chair in Modern Culture. She earned her PhD in African art history at SOAS, University of London, and has since focused on Indigenous North American arts and museology. As director of the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia from 1997 to 2002 she initiated a major renewal of the museum’s digital and physical research infrastructure adapted to collaborative research with Indigenous peoples. She is the author of Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Arts from the Northeast, 1700–1900; Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums; and Native North American Art, with Janet Catherine Berlo. With Nicholas Thomas she organised the Multiple Modernisms project to address Indigenous modernisms in a global comparative framework, co-editing its first publication, Mapping Modernisms: Art, Indigeneity, Colonialism with Elizabeth Harney, and its second, Mediating Modernisms: Indigenous Artists, Modernist Mediators, Global Networks, with Norman Vorano. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the American Anthropological Society and the Universities Art Association of Canada.

Research Lunch | Anna Jamieson on Topographical Asylum Prints

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on February 10, 2023

From the Mellon Centre:

Anna Jamieson | Viewing Virtually and Learning to Look: The Topographical Asylum Print
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 17 March 2023, 1pm

Print from 1815 showing the exterior of St Luke's Hospital

T. H. Shepherd, St Luke’s Hospital, Cripplegate, London, 1815, engraving (London: Wellcome Collection).

By the final decades of the eighteenth century, asylums and hospitals had become mainstays of England’s philanthropic tourist circuit. Providing visitors with the opportunity to interact with human suffering, asylums were uniquely placed to encourage and facilitate the display of humanity deemed socially appropriate during this period.

For the educated elite engaged in philanthropic tourism, the asylum was often first encountered via the topographical print. Analysing a range of prints that depict asylum exteriors and their environs, this talk argues that these prints played an important role in shaping first impressions before a tour, guiding tourists in ways to look and behave in these unique and unsettling spaces. It demonstrates that viewing topographical prints prior to a visit evoked one’s social status, in that they characterised asylums as polite and esteemed destinations only accessible to the elite classes. At the same time, the talk suggests that topographical prints were designed to intrigue and titillate guests, with painters and printmakers employing unusual perspectives or fragmentary scenes to pique the interest of the visitor and provide a tantalising glimpse of life behind the asylum façade.

Book tickets here»

Anna Jamieson is an interdisciplinary art historian, a postdoctoral fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre, and an associate lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London. Anna specialises in visual and material cultures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, with a particular interest in women’s mental illness; the cultural history of psychiatry; and dark tourism. She is currently writing her first monograph, The Gaze of the Sane: Asylum Tourism in England, 1770–1845. She is co-director of Birkbeck’s Centre for Museum Cultures and a member of the steering committee for Birkbeck’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health. Anna’s research has been published in Eighteenth-Century Studies and Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and her co-edited volume, Pockets, Pouches and Secret Drawers is forthcoming with Brill (2023). She is an associate editor for the medical humanities website The Polyphony and tweets at @annafranjam.

Research Lunch | Deepthi Bathala on Crop Trials and Tropicality in India

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on February 10, 2023

From the Mellon Centre:

Deepthi Bathala | Plantation Failures, Famine Crops, and Contesting Tropicality: Trials of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in the Early Nineteenth Century
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 10 March 2023, 1pm

1855 map of India

“The Physical Geography of India and the Botanical Provinces 1855,” published in Joseph Dalton Hooker and Thomas Thomson, Flora Indica: Or Description of Indian Plants (1855; image from the Biodiversity Heritage Library).

In the late eighteenth century during a famine in British India, the Botanical Garden in Calcutta emerged as a response to the crisis. Envisioned as an institution of agricultural improvement, the garden sought to mobilise and introduce climatically suitable crops from various parts of the world for what was understood to be the tropical climate in India. In a quest to introduce famine crops such as wheat and potatoes from the Cape along with plantation crops like coffee, teak, and mulberry, horticulture, along with plantation trials, were administered at the same time both within and outside the garden compound. This paper discusses the plantation and horticultural trials of the Botanic Garden and their subsequent failures in the early nineteenth century to argue that these experiments were integral to contesting the preconceived tropicality of India. These failures determined not only the agricultural landscape of the country but also dictated the siting of other botanical gardens through the production of new climate knowledge in relation to the plants that grew, thrived, or failed. By using maps of the garden, rough sketches of early plantation grounds, and correspondence letters between officials of the garden and the company, the paper illustrates how the officials and affiliates of the garden produced an imaginary climate for British India contesting the tropicality of India while at the same time transforming its landscape in the early nineteenth century.

Book tickets here»

Deepthi Bathala is a PhD candidate in Architecture (History/Theory) at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include environmental histories of the built environment at the intersection of colonialism, climate knowledge, and horticulture. Her research is being supported by the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art, London; Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Virginia; Society of Architectural Historians; and the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. She has a MSArch in Architecture History and Theory from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a BArch from the College of Engineering Trivandrum, Kerala University in India.

Exhibition | Crafting Freedom: Thomas W. Commeraw

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on February 6, 2023

Detail of a stoneware jug with ornament and lettering in blue glaze, 'COMMERAWS STONEWARE. . .'

Thomas W. Commeraw, Jug, detail, ca. 1797–1819, salt-glazed stoneware, cobalt oxide, 12 inches (30 cm) high
(New-York Historical Society, purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937.820).

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From the press release (6 October 2022) for the exhibition:

Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw
New-York Historical Society, 27 January — 28 May 2023
Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, 24 June — 24 September 2023

Curated by Margi Hofer, Mark Shapiro, and Allison Robinson, with Leslie M. Harris

The New-York Historical Society presents Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw, the first exhibition to bring overdue attention to Thomas W. Commeraw, a successful Black craftsman who was long assumed to be white. Formerly enslaved, Commeraw rose to prominence as a free Black entrepreneur, owning and operating a successful pottery in the city. Over a period of two decades, he amassed property, engaged in debates over state and national politics, and participated in New York City’s free Black community. The exhibition explores Commeraw’s multi-faceted history as a craftsman, business owner, family man, and citizen through approximately 40 pieces of stoneware produced by Commeraw and his competitors between the late 1790s and 1819, in the largest presentation of his work to date. Alongside these pieces are the primary documents that enabled historians to reconstruct the arc of his professional career and personal life, and through them convey a deeper understanding of free Black society in New York in the years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Stoneware jug with ornament and lettering in blue glaze, 'COMMERAWS STONEWARE. . .'

Thomas W. Commeraw, Jug, ca. 1797–1819, salt-glazed stoneware, cobalt oxide, 12 inches (30 cm) high, (New-York Historical Society, purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937.820).

Crafting Freedom continues the tradition at New-York Historical of presenting groundbreaking exhibitions that reveal the complex dimensions of race in the early years of New York City and our nation,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “Through this exhibition of Thomas W. Commeraw and his work, we gain an in-depth understanding of a Black artisan’s life in New York, while also seeing how our understanding of history continues to evolve to give us greater insight into issues that affect our society today. This exhibition will transform our visitors’ perspective on New York’s free Black community, challenging long-held myths about post-revolutionary race relations in northern states.”

“This exhibition illuminates the story of a man who was emancipated as a child, went on to own and operate his own business, and advocated for the rights of full citizenship for his fellow Black Americans,” said Margi Hofer, New-York Historical’s vice president and museum director, who co-curated the exhibition. “While Commeraw’s distinctive pottery has been admired and collected for over a century, his true story has been obscured for far too long. It is incredibly meaningful that we are able to bring to light a true portrait of the man, both as a citizen and as a craftsman.”

The New York City directories first list Thomas “Commerau” working as a potter in 1795, living near Pot Baker’s Hill in the vicinity of today’s City Hall. By 1797, he had established his own workshop at Corlears Hook on the East River. There, he produced vessels in the local tradition, often decorated with distinctive flourishes of swags, tassels, and bowknot motifs filled with vivid cobalt. Stoneware vessels were essential kitchenware in that era and stored everything from milk, butter, salted meat, and preserves, to molasses, cider, and beer. Commeraw also manufactured oyster jars for the city’s oystermen, who were predominantly from the free Black community. His crocks and jugs traveled on ships to ports along the eastern seaboard and as far afield as Guyana and Norway. Most of the Commeraw vessels that survive today are boldly stamped with his name and the location of his pottery at Manhattan’s Corlears Hook. In addition to signaling pride in his work, Commeraw’s prominent branding helped him attract and retain customers.

In addition to revealing Commeraw’s successes and struggles as a pottery owner in a city riven by racism, the exhibition explores his commitment to securing a better future for the Black community through his work with abolitionist, political, religious, and mutual aid organizations. In 1790, the majority of Black New Yorkers were enslaved. By 1810, 6 out of 7 were free. Businessmen like Commeraw faced daunting challenges, not just raising capital but building civic and religious organizations to support the Black community. Free Black men had voted in New York since the Revolution, but in 1811, the state legislature passed a law to suppress Black voters, requiring them to submit a Certificate of Freedom that included a sworn statement from a third party attesting to the voter’s free status and residency and to pay a filing fee. A highlight of the exhibition is the 1813 Certificate of Freedom held by New-York Historical’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library that bears Commeraw’s confident signature as witness. It is the only confirmed manuscript in his hand. The exhibition also examines how Black New Yorkers responded to economic and political oppression by developing a lively cultural and artistic community.

The final chapter in Commeraw’s story concerns his effort to promote the emigration of Black settlers to Sierra Leone, as the prospect of full citizenship for Black New Yorkers dimmed. Commeraw traveled there with his extended family in 1820 on the first voyage of the American Colonization Society. He arrived full of optimism and plans to found a Black republic; instead, he experienced unimaginable hardship and tragedy. What began as a venture for political rights ended as a struggle for survival. Many of the settlers died of malaria, including Commeraw’s wife and niece. He returned to the U.S. in 1822 and died the following year in Baltimore. The exhibition closes with a coda that describes future generations of the Commeraw family carrying forward the potter’s entrepreneurial energy and political engagement.

Additionally, Queens-based ceramic artist and activist Sana Musasama has created a new work that reflects on Commeraw’s life as a New York potter, his transatlantic odyssey of two centuries ago, and her own artistic journey. Passages will be installed in New-York Historical’s grand lobby, the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery, to introduce the exhibition and encourage visitors to contemplate how Commeraw’s story continues to resonate today.

Crafting Freedom is co-curated by New-York Historical’s Vice President and Museum Director Margi Hofer, potter and Commeraw researcher Mark Shapiro, and Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History Allison Robinson. Leslie M. Harris, professor of history and African American studies at Northwestern University, served as scholarly advisor. The exhibition next travels to the Fenimore Art Museum, where it will be on view from June 24 until September 24, 2023.

Major support for Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw is provided by the Decorative Arts Trust and Emily and James Satloff.

Leslie Harris in Conversation with David Rubenstein, The Shadow of Slavery and the History of African Americans in New York City, from the Settling of New Amsterdam to the Civil War
New-York Historical Society, 10 April 2023

Detail of a newspaper from 20 August 1814, notice to "The People of Color throughout the city and county of New-York" with name of "THOS. W. COMMERAW."

“Test of Patriotism,” Commercial Advertister (20 August 1814)
(Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New York Historical Society)

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A. Brandt Zipp, Commeraw’s Stoneware: The Life and Work of the First African-American Pottery Owner (Sparks, Maryland: Crocker Farm, 2022), 311 pages, ISBN: ‎979-8218002909, $95.

Book cover.Presented here for the first time in two centuries is the lost story of New York City potter Thomas W. Commeraw, a key early African American figure whose identity slipped through the fingers of history. Rediscovered by the author in the first years of this century, Commeraw stands as one of the most fascinating of all historic American decorative artists: an abolitionist, activist, highly influential craftsman and, ultimately, the hopeful founder of a new African republic. Topics include: Commeraw’s fascinating life story, from childhood to death; a comprehensive discussion and illustration of Commeraw’s pottery, made from the mid-1790s to late 1810s; Commeraw’s abolitionism, political activism, and role as an important local free black figure; a thorough history of New York City stoneware; an in-depth breakdown of the work of other New York City stoneware manufacturers including Clarkson Crolius Sr., John Remmey III, and David Morgan; and Commeraw’s harrowing experiences on the west coast of Africa.

Brandt Zipp is a founding partner of Crocker Farm, Inc., the nation’s premier auction house specializing in historic American utilitarian ceramics. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Brandt’s research regularly breaks important new ground, no greater example being his serendipitous discovery of Thomas Commeraw’s heritage. Commeraw’s Stoneware represents the culmination of almost two decades of research, writing, and lecturing.

Lecture Series | Catholic Chapels in N. England / Adam and Chippendale

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on February 5, 2023

Upcoming lectures from the York Georgian Society:

Jan Graffius | From Borneo to York: The 18th-Century Chapels at Stonyhurst and the Bar Convent
York Medical Society, Saturday, 11 February 2023, 2.30pm

Interior view of a private chapel with green walls.

Bar Convent Chapel, completed in 1769. Established in 1686, the Convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin at Micklegate Bar in York is the oldest surviving convent in England.

This talk will examine the history and contents of two extraordinary 18th-century chapels in the North of England. Both chapels were hidden from view, but both reflected very different aspects of English Catholicism. The 1713 Stonyhurst Shireburn inventory lists luxury artefacts from China along with those of the European baroque, salvaged medieval material culture, and the latest English Georgian fashions, all demonstrating a confident seigneurial Catholicism in a deeply rural setting. The flamboyant but hidden 1769 Bar Convent chapel of Mother Ann Aspinal and its associated 16th- and 17th-century relics and vestments speaks of a different community—religious sisters and recusant schoolgirls—navigating the political challenges associated with an all-female community in a volatile urban setting.

Jan Graffius is Curator of Collections and Historic Libraries at Stonyhurst College.

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Kerry Bristol | Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale at Nostell: A Matter of Equals?
York Medical Society, Saturday, 11 March 2023, 2.30pm

Painting of two men standing at a table.

Unknown British artist, A Cabinet Maker’s Office, ca. 1770, oil on canvas, 53 × 70 cm (London: V&A, P.1-1961).

Nostell, the ancestral home of the Winn family near Wakefield, has long been recognised as an important commission for both Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale, one indicative of a close friendship between architect and patron and suggestive of a special relationship between the Otley-born cabinetmaker and a family who reputedly promoted his interests early in his career. Based on a fresh reading of the Nostell archive, this lecture will investigate the nature of the business relationship between Adam and Chippendale and query how and where they worked together at Nostell and when they worked independently of each other. Did the late 18th-century architect always have the upper hand, or could those who furnished a house exert more control?

Kerry Bristol is Senior Lecturer in the School of Fine Art at the University of Leeds.

Handling Session | Hausmaler at the V&A

Posted in lectures (to attend), resources by Editor on February 3, 2023

Saucer, made at the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory, ca. 1720–25 and then painted by an unknown ‘hausmaler’ painter, ca. 1720–30
(London: Victoria and Albert Museum, C.218A-1938)

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A good reason to join The French Porcelain Society:

Hausmaler at the V&A
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 23 February 2023

The French Porcelain Society’s handling session examining German Hausmalerei—faïence and porcelain painted in small workshops outside their factories (Hausmaler, ‘home painter’)—from the V&A collection will take place on Thursday, 23 February, in the morning. The session will be led by Simon Spier, Curator of Ceramics and Glass 1600–1800, and Errol Manners. Numbers will be limited, and the cost is £25, with a reduced rate available for emerging scholars. If interested, please contact FPS administrator Kelsey Weeks, FPSmailing@gmail.com.

Online Salon | Promenades on Paper: 18th-C. French Drawings

Posted in exhibitions, lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on January 27, 2023


Virtual Salon on The Clark’s Exhibition of Eighteenth-Century French Drawings from the BnF
Online, Wednesday, 1 February 2023, 7pm ET

The Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art and the Dahesh Museum join with the Clark Art Institute for a Virtual Salon on the Clark’s current exhibition Promenades on Paper: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Focusing on select drawings from the exhibition, curators Esther Bell, Anne Leonard, and Sarah Grandin will offer a varied and lively picture of artistic practices in the years leading up to and just after the French Revolution. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please register here.

Esther Bell is Deputy Director and Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Chief Curator at the Clark Art Institute. Prior to joining the Clark, Bell was the curator in charge of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Bell has published essays and organized exhibitions on a range of subjects, from seventeenth-century genre painting to eighteenth-century theater to nineteenth-century millinery.

Anne Leonard is Manton Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Clark Art Institute. In addition to curating numerous exhibitions of works on paper, she is co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture (2014) and author/editor of Arabesque without End: Across Music and the Arts, from Faust to Shahrazad (2022).

Sarah Grandin is Clark-Getty Paper Project Curatorial Fellow at the Clark Art Institute. She specializes in French works on paper and the material culture of the ancien régime. She has published essays on typography, drawing, and Savonnerie carpets, and is preparing a monograph on issues of scale in the graphic and decorative arts under Louis XIV.

Research Lunch | Dominic Bate on Pythagorean Visions

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on January 22, 2023

From the Mellon Centre:

Dominic Bate, Pythagorean Visions: Picturing Harmony in British Art, 1719–1753
Online only, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 10 February 2023, 1pm

In the early eighteenth century, an eclectic group of artists and architects working primarily in London believed that they could improve the arts by placing their working practices on an unassailable mathematical footing. In this endeavour they were inspired by a concept of universal harmony, which held that the entire cosmos was organised by God according to the rules of arithmetic and geometry. This concept had ancient roots, being associated with the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, among others, but it assumed a new significance in Hanoverian Britain thanks to the work of antiquarians and natural philosophers such as Isaac Newton, whose scientific discoveries were hailed in terms of the recovery of lost knowledge.

The first part of this talk introduces some of the artistic initiatives that were inspired by the highly acclaimed work of Newton and his followers, and argues that these initiatives can be understood with reference to the early modern phenomenon of ‘projecting’, defined in this instance as the contrivance of speculative schemes that sought to marry public benefit and private profit by harnessing the power of mathematics and natural knowledge.

The second part of the talk deepens and complicates the first by focusing on the career of the talented draftsman Giles Hussey (1710–1788), who developed a mathematical approach to portraiture during the 1730s and 1740s. At the heart of Hussey’s method was the geometry of the equilateral triangle and the proportional relationships that it encompassed, including the ratios of musical consonances such as the octave (2:1), the perfect fourth (4:3), and the perfect fifth (3:2). Hussey’s work shows how the pursuit of mathematical approaches to artmaking could be productive while also entailing serious practical and theoretical difficulties, thereby shedding light on the role played by eighteenth-century artists (rather than ‘disinterested’ philosophers) as solvers of aesthetic problems.

Book tickets here»

Dominic Bate is a PhD candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is writing a dissertation that examines the relationship between art and aesthetics, natural theology and practical mathematics in eighteenth-century Britain. Before coming to Brown, Dominic worked in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, where he was involved in cataloguing the collection of portrait prints and British book illustrations. Dominic has BA and MA degrees in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and in the spring of 2022 he was a visiting student in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. His research has been supported by the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown and the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art.

Online Talk | Malcolm Baker on Canova’s Three Graces at the V&A

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on January 19, 2023
Detail of The Three Graces, marble sculpture.

Antonio Canova, The Three Graces (detail), 1814–17 (London: V&A Museum, no. A.4-1994).

This evening (London time), from the V&A:

Malcolm Baker with Kira d’Alburquerque | Canova’s Three Graces and the V&A
Online and in-person, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 19 January 2023, 7pm

Malcolm Baker joins V&A curator Kira d’Alburquerque for a look at Antonio Canova’s The Three Graces (1814–17) and the campaign to save the celebrated group in the early 1990s. Baker played a significant role in the acquisition of the work for the V&A nearly three decades ago. He joins Kira d’Alburquerque to discuss the campaign to “Save the Three Graces” and how attitudes toward Canova’s sculpture have changed. The talk will be held in-person and on Zoom. Online tickets are £5. If, as a ticket-holder, you have not received a link by noon on the day, contact membershipevents@vam.ac.uk.

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