This year’s Early Modern Research Centre colloquium at the University of Reading is on the culture of competition in Europe’s Academies. I will be giving a paper on the culture of institutional competition that drove artistic production in 17th-century Paris (a short abstract follows below), which is drawn from my book, Académie Royale: A History in Portraits (due out next year).
Katie Scott and I have been taking Artists’ Things out and about with two presentations already this year and another booked in. Our formula for these dual presentations seems to be working quite well – the feedback so far has been great and we’ve had some dynamic discussions and really useful leads. Each paper begins with one of us giving an introduction with a conceptual frame that sets up the themes that will emerge from the interventions to come – then we each take one object from our collection and present them in dialogue, one after the other.
For the CRASSH ’18th Century Things’ series in Cambridge, we explored the materiality of artistic practice through two professional tools – Fragonard’s colour box and Houdon’s modelling stand, and for AAH2012 at the Open University we looked at everyday life in the French Royal Academy through two institutional objects – the secretary’s document box and the concierge’s register of funeral invitations. The next stop for us is going to be Lyon for the Luxury and Trade Conference this November, where we will be talking about (you guessed it) artists’ luxury possessions. Through Boucher’s shell collection and Coypel’s gold watch, instead of the more conventional image of the artist as a producer of luxury goods, we will explore the artist’s role as a consumer.
If you’re interested, you can listen to our CRASSH presentation in the 18th Century Things audio archive, where you’ll also find lots of other stimulating papers on 18th-century ‘stuff’. Abstracts for the papers can be found on the Artists’ Things website.
I’m organising a session with my colleague Keren Hammerschlag exploring new histories of Europe’s art academies at the 2012 Association of Art Historians (AAH) conference, which is going to be held next March at the Open University in Milton Keynes.
|Courtauld Gallery’s ‘Art on the Line’ Royal Academy exhibition in 2001 (Photo: Courtauld Gallery)|
Our aim is to re-interpret the place of academies in the early modern art world, and to start re-conceptualising the histories that have been constructed of these institutions in art history. Here’s the call for papers (submissions due by 7 November 2011):
For centuries, institutions like the Royal Academy in London, the Académie Royale (later the Académie des Beaux Arts) in Paris, and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome were the epicentres of European art practice, theory and education. For artists, having the letters ‘RA’ after their name, or the opportunity to show works at the Salons or the Summer Exhibitions promised elevated social standing and commercial success. As institutions, Academies developed principles and ideals that dominated artistic production throughout the period. In art history, however, the ‘Academy’ has been variously recast as staid, kitsch and archaic. According to critics, ‘academic’ art represents the inert centre against which avant-garde innovation and originality was pitted. But in their time, Europe’s Academies were anything but static or homogenous. Established by groups of artists resisting under-developed or conservative attitudes to art, these communities often began as innovative alternatives; they were home to radical new approaches, and became sites of heated debate in response to political, theoretical and social shifts.
This session seeks a re-evaluation of art’s insiders. What did it mean to be at the centre of these powerful institutions? And how can we effectively revisit the Academy without falling into the trap of reviving dead, white, male, bourgeois artists? We invite proposals for papers that take a new look at the ‘Academy’ and academicians in the period 1600 to 1900. Papers might address issues of gender, social networks, individual and collective identity, educational practices, centre and periphery (eg. regional academies), in-groups and rivalries, competition and emulation, successes and failures. In particular we invite papers informed by sociological, anthropological and cultural theory approaches, which take art objects as their focus.