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Art History Today
Midlands, United Kingdom
Professional Art Historian, Phd in Poussin,
Interests: music, art history, films, (classical through to rock), literature (mainly modern crime mystery).
Recent Activity
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Slides Francisco Goya y Lucientes, frontispiece to Los Capricchos, 1797-98, aquatint. George Murgatroyd Woodward, Caricature Curiosity, 1806, hand coloured etching, 30.1×24.9 cm. Anonymous, Dissection of Dead Member of Parliament, 1746, etching. Giambattista Tiepolo, The Artist with Presumed Portrait of his Son, Domenico, 1752-53, Detail of Apollo and the Four Continents, Residenz, Würzburg, fresco. Domenico Tiepolo, The Burial of Punchinello, c. 1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, pen and ink, brown and yellow wash, over black chalk, 29.5 x 41.2 cm. Pietro Longhi, Painter in his Studio, 1740-45, oil on canvas, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice. William Hogarth,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Thomas Rowlandson and Dr Syntax The last of our caricaturists Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) is famous as the illustrator of one of the greatest comic figures of the 18th century: Dr Syntax, a witty satire on William Gilpin, the person most associated with the picturesque. The “curate’s picturesque” by Gilpin the “high priest of the picturesque” was mercilessly sent up by the caricaturist Rowlandson who illustrated the character of the curate the Reverend Dr Syntax (created by William Coombe) who is shown riding off on his horse in search of the pleasures of nature. His fortunes are mixed: he is shown... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Gillray’s Caricatures in London & Paris. If Hogarth’s main target was Walpole and his politicians, James Gillray’s (1756/7- 1815) favourite bête noire was the Royal Family of George III; though the cartoonist saved plenty of pictorial venom for both politicians and the art world. Born in Chelsea, Gillray lost an arm in battle, but he eventually trained as a letter engraver; he was even a member of the R.A. who took in certain print-makers. In his early career, Hogarth’s prints were a key influence, though most of Gillray’s cartoons are executed in a variety of techniques including etching, aquatint, hence... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Goya’s Disquieting Humour in Spain In an article on the comic outside France, the illustrious poet and critic Charles Baudelaire examines the element of the fantastic in the art of Goya.1 As he notes, this tendency of mixing the comic and the fantastic makes Goya difficult to locate in the history of the comic image; he may have been trained academically via the expressions of Le Brun; but his creations, especially the set of engravings known as the Capricchos, are singular in character. With great skill Goya yokes the terrifying qualities of nature with human physiognomies, both set against a... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Heading Towards Comedy: Tiepolo & the Venetian Caricature. In Italy, the caricature has a long history going back to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of old men. However, this might be classified as the overlapping of both the portrait and caricature genres: Leonardo amused himself by drawing the men with unusual ugliness, but this was not really an example of comedy since Leonardo undertook it in a spirit of merciless scientific enquiry. As we saw with Ghezzi in Rome, caricature in this tradition were used with connoisseurs as targets. Good examples of this genre exist by G. B. Tiepolo. But sometimes... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Longhi & Polite Comedy in Venice Pietro Longhi’s art depicts meetings, breakfasts, salons, scenes of Venetian life peopled by men and women from all social classes. Though there is an undoubted charm to Longhi’s fashionable scenes painted in muted pinks, greens and earth colours, there is occasionally an abstract, disjointed feeling to his compositions. This may have contributed to the attitude on the part of some scholars that there is a vacant, arid quality to Longhi’s art rather than that his pictures convey the reality of life. Do his scenes of Venetian life mean anything?1 Do they show real locations... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Hogarth & the Public. If there is one 18th century artist who represents the link between the public and caricature, it is Hogarth. Nearly all of Hogarth’s work is peopled with the faces of individuals from every walk of life, thus rendering his view of human society more democratic than most of the caricaturists of the 18th century. Though he was knowledgeable about classical art, Hogarth orientated himself towards the public; he evaded the art dealers and aimed his art at the public. Part of Hogarth’s appeal for the public was that much of his art was satirising the elitism... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Connoisseurs and Seeing in England. In 1761, Hogarth produced a tailpiece to the catalogue of the Society of Artists in Great Britain with a connoisseur dressed as a monkey holding a magnifying glass, who nourished pots of plants, symbols of the old masters; this contrasted markedly with the frontispiece showing a figure of Britain – beneath the gaze of a bust of George III- watering plants representing the arts in Britain.1 And the magnifying glass, though a kind of shorthand for the connoisseur’s ability to see pictures closely and percipiently, was also linked with voyeurism. The optical equipment of the... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Satirising Connoisseurship in Rome. In 1750 a young Joshua Reynolds arrived in Rome with the object of beginning an intense study of the ancient marbles and old masters such as Michelangelo and Raphael. But whilst residing in the Eternal city, Reynolds also embarked on a completely different project; a venture that brought connoisseurship and caricature together within one frame. Reynolds created- either on his own initiative, or with the help of other connoisseurs- a caricature of Raphael’s School of Athens; instead of deep-thinking philosophers Reynolds substituted a group of British and Irish connoisseurs and “milords” on the Grand Tour. The... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Caricature in 18th Century Art. In order to understand the art of caricature in the 18th century, it is necessary to say something about physiognomy and the interest in the playful expression of faces, or portrait caricature, which appeared fairly late in the history of art.1 In the century one of the greatest caricaturists is William Hogarth who relied on his retentive memory of faces and expression; one of his favourite sayings was “the only way to draw well is never to draw at all.”2 It was pointless to copy the model in the English academies, since it was more... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
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Satire, Visual Art & Eighteenth-Century Society. In his short description of satire in eighteenth-century Europe, Matthew Crask stresses the corporeal aspect of wit and humour which predominantly depends on a presentation of the body in relation to its functions.1 These corporeal activities would not only become linked with the medical profession, but people from other trades such as the law, art, and perhaps most of all- the political culture of the century (above), especially in some of Hogarth’s famous series which some believe were created to lampoon Walpole’s government.2 Politics becomes intermingled with art in this century; it is believed... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Art History Today
It’s always sad to hear these stories. from art history colleagues on the other side of the world. How can art research be done without libraries? Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2018 at Art History Today
Good post from Charles Saumarez Smith’s blog on the crucified figure of James Legg who was hanged in 1802, and then became the subject of an R.A. dispute. Photo and extract from his blog. “The work was produced as a result of an argument between Benjamin West, the then President of the Royal Academy, Thomas Banks, the sculptor, and Richard Cosway, the miniature painter as to what a crucified figure looked like in its anatomy. They commissioned Joseph Constantine Carpue, a surgeon, to acquire a corpse, so they could find out. He acquired the corpse of Legg who was hanged... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2018 at Art History Today
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Slides Joshua Reynolds, The Ladies Waldegrave, exh RA 1780, oil on canvas, 143×163 cm, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. Henry Fuseli, Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking, exh RA 1784, oil on canvas, 221×160 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Edward Francis Burney, The Royal Academy Exhibition of 1784, The Great Room, North Wall, pen, grey ink, and wash, with watercolour, British Museum. Benjamin West, The Apotheosis of Prince Alfred, ex RA 1784, oil on canvas, 240.6×153.7 cm, Royal Collection. Joshua Reynolds, Colonel Bannastre Tarleton, exh RA 1782, oil on canvas, 236×145.5 cm, National Gallery, London. Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse,... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Fuseli & Shakespeare. The Swiss artist Henry Fuseli arrived in London in 1763, published a translation of the German antiquarian Winckelmann, and followed Reynold’s advice to spend time studying in Rome for eight years until 1779. During the 1780s Fuseli showed several canvases at the R.A., where he got acclaim for the originality of his compositions; his art was also said to have a “singularity,” a term denoting the artist’s bizarre genius, or at least his artistic originality. Even more than Reynolds, Fuseli was an expert on Shakespeare, falling just short of publishing his own version of Macbeth in the... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Lear on The Heath: A New Innovation in Shakespearean Art. Though the R.A. followed the French in keeping landscape physically far from history painting, the new vogue for illustrating Shakespeare’s art led to its re-appearance within the context of the high arts. Minor painters like John Wooton (1682-1764) and Francesco Zuccarelli (1702-88) placed the favoured scene of Macbeth meeting the witches in the centre of stormy landscapes, thus uniting the dramatic action with the sublime, the supernatural and continental landscape.1 Another major opportunity for landscape art lay in the much painted scene of King Lear wandering on the heath, set... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Reynolds, the Grand Style & Shakespeare.1 Reynolds did not have a casual affair with the stage; he attended performances frequently, was friends with lots of actors and actresses such as Garrick – who he painted placed between Tragedy and Comedy- and Mrs Siddons who he not only painted, but also advised her on her theatrical dress. Additionally, as well as having contacts with persons from the theatre world, Reynolds wrote an essay on Shakespeare- largely inspired by his friend Dr Johnson’s books on the subject- and in his Thirteenth-Discourse Reynolds made a parallel between painting and the theatre, in a... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Opening the Shakespeare Gallery. Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery opened its doors on the 4th May 1789 with thirty four paintings on display in the main galleries.1 Visitors entered the Gallery from Pall Mall through an entrance designed by George Dance, whose family had mainly constructed public buildings like Newgate Prison. Dance’s design included the relief sculpture by Banks examined earlier; it was placed high up so that it could be seen by approaching visitors. Walking through the double-door of 52 Pall Mall, one would find oneself in a large vestibule which would lead via steps up to the first floor galleries... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Towards the Shakespeare Gallery: Other Spaces for the Public Viewing of Art. Apart from the mutually beneficial relationship between Somerset House and the theatre, there were other entertainments available to the public in the 1780s, mostly happening in the Pall Mall district which have been ignored by art historians in favour of the R.A. exhibitions.1 One could see menageries, life-size puppet shows at the Exeter Change, and Lunardi’s hydrogen balloon, hardly the most elevated of experiences; but it shows the diversity of event culture in the 1780s. But for art lovers there was the opportunity to view independent exhibitions held... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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The Image of Shakespeare in Eighteenth- Century Sculpture. Before looking in detail at examples of Shakespearean art, it is helpful to say something about image of William Shakespeare himself, particularly in relation to 18th century sculpture since this sub-genre helps us discover links between Shakespeare and the artistic and theatre culture that produced scenes from his plays, or enacted them in the theatre. Perhaps the key work for images of Shakespeare himself is Thomas Bank’s (1735-1805) public sculptural group (above) which was used as a relief sculpture on the entrance of Boydell’s Shakespearean Gallery in Pall Mall-see below. The iconography... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Displaying Actresses at the R.A. The link between the exhibition room and the theatrical stage is very close in the later stages of the century. As Gill Perry explains, the stage and the exhibition room enjoyed an almost symbiotic relationship which helped to ignite the fires of celebrity; visitors to the gallery or stage- or both- were able to partake of their favourite actors and actresses in both pictorial and living form. Somerset House in the Strand was an easy walk from Drury Lane or Covent Garden, and a short carriage ride from the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket. Also,... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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An Embarrassment of Riches at the R.A. Gallery in the 1780s. With the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768, and the annual exhibitions that followed, the 18th century public were granted the opportunity to view pictures of all types.1 These included portraits of various individuals, like Reynold's The Ladies Waldegrave (1780). There were also a number of pictures of actors and actresses, a few landscapes, animal pictures, small pictures of objects, and examples of what many in the organisation called the noblest genre- history painting, that is to say scenes of modern heroism, classical subjects, and literary subjects including... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at Art History Today
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Slides. J. H. Ramberg, engraved P.A. Martini, 1787, The Royal Academy Exhibition at Somerset House, 1788. Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Charles I, c. 1635, oil on canvas, 272 × 212 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Sir Godfrey Kneller, William III on Horseback with Allegorical Figures, 1701, oil on canvas, 444×428 cm, Royal Collection. John Wooton, George II at the Battle of Dettingen, c. 1743, King George II at the Battle of Dettingen, with the Duke of Cumberland and Robert, 4th Earl of Holderness, 27 June 1743, oil on canvas, National Army Museum. Sir Godfrey Kneller, Thomas Pelham Holles, Duke... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2018 at Art History Today
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The Public, Sentiment & History Painting in the 1760s & 1770s. The artistic societies adopted the French practice of offering free exhibitions- with a catalogue available for 6d- but eventually they relinquished philanthropy altogether and imposed an exhibition charge of a shilling. In doing this they seemed to be saying that art was not a charity- like the Foundling project- and that they must encourage the kind of viewers who paid for their pleasures at Vauxhall with doing the same for exhibitions.1 At these displays, the public were given the opportunity to appraise art from the highest genre, history painting,... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2018 at Art History Today
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The Struggle for an Academy. The court room in the Foundling could be considered one of the first galleries of history paintings in England,1 since it was praised handsomely by critics, even by a French commentator who saw them as evidence that the gallery gave the public the chance to judge the ability of British portrait painters to execute history pictures.2 But the genre of history painting “remained marginal,”3 and in order for it to become central in London, and thus more visible to the public, it would take a number of artistic battles resulting in the decision to create... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2018 at Art History Today