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.
At the end of the month I’m going to Austria for the 13th International Congress of ISECS (International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies), also known as SIEDS in France (Société internationale d’étude du XVIIIe siècle). The Society has a large conference every four years – like the Olympics for eighteenth-centuryists! – which brings together scholars from all sorts of fields (history, literature, philosophy, art history, language studies) working in all kinds of thematic and geographic areas, who share the one common trait of being eighteenth-century-centric.
This year the conference is being held in Graz (25-29 July 2011) and most of the sessions are related to two main themes: 1) Time in the Age of Enlightenment: Situating the Present, Imagining the Future; and 2) Central and Eastern Europe in the Age of Enlightenment. I’m going to be giving a paper in a session organised by Heather McPherson on Portraiture and Time. Here’s a short abstract to give a sense of what it’s about:
|Jean-Marc Nattier, Self-Portrait with his Family, 1762 (Source: Wikigallery.org)|
Painting Against Time: Alternative Temporalities in the Portraits of Jean-Marc Nattier and Louis Tocqué
This paper explores the suspension of time in portraits by Jean-Marc Nattier and Louis Tocqué, two of the most celebrated portraitists of eighteenth-century France, who were also, at different times in their lives: master and student, colleagues at the Académie Royale, and father- and son-in-law. Through an analysis of the portraits that Nattier and Tocqué painted of themselves and each other across their lives, I explore how these artists played with time to negotiate their changing professional and personal relationships. Tocqué was only ten years younger than his master and father-in-law, but in the pictorial realm, time could be suspended to visualise a more appropriate age gap which had never existed in life. I argue that in Nattier and Tocqué’s portraits and self-portraits, we encounter efforts to construct alternative temporalities in which their relationships were normalised. Through close visual analysis of these objects that marked, commemorated and reinforced professional and familial relationships, this paper reveals how portraiture permitted a temporal fluidity that allowed the objects’ makers to play with reality: to go back in time, to distort the fabric of time, to slow down, to speed up, to preserve moments or even invent them.
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.
Last week, from Thursday 31 March to Saturday 2 April, the art historians of the world converged on the Midlands for AAH 2011, the Association of Art Historians’ Annual Conference, held this year at the University of Warwick near Coventry.
The main venue was the Warwick Art Centre, with plenary sessions held in the main lecture theatre and the book fair held in the Mead Gallery. Coffee breaks, lunches and receptions were also held in the Mead Gallery, giving delegates plenty of time to browse the selections and take advantage of the publishers’ discounts while milling, chatting, and scoffing tea and cupcakes. I’ve brought home lots of catalogues and stocklists and hope to make a purchase before the offers run out.
Sessions were run in the nearby Social Sciences block (not quite far enough away to get lost) in well-equipped seminar rooms (though some were a touch on the small side). All the session rooms were close together, which made it relatively easy to slip between sessions without causing too much confusion or disruption. I spent most of my time zipping between sessions on Ephemera (convened by Katie Scott and Richard Taws), Wax (convened by Hanneke Grootenboor and Allison Goudie), and Ugliness (convened by Andrei Pop and Mechthild Widrich). I especially enjoyed Mechthild Fend’s paper on wax moulds of skin diseases from the Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris; Frédérique Desbuissons’ paper on ‘culinary ugliness’ and the use of food metaphors by nineteenth-century French art critics to critique bad painting; Edward Payne’s paper on Jusepe de Ribera’s prints of grotesque heads and body parts; and Alice Barnaby’s paper ‘fast feedback’, on light and ephemeral viewing experiences in nineteenth-century transparencies.
The plenaries this year were: on Thursday, Stephen Bann (Professor of History of Art, University of Bristol) in conversation with Karen Lang (Editor of The Art Bulletin); and on Friday, Pat Rubin (formerly Head of Research at the Courtauld, now Director of IFA at NYU) who spoke on Art History from the Bottom Up (which did indeed involve a lot of bottoms!). A plenary lecture by Horst Bredekamp had been scheduled for the Thursday but was cancelled, and the conversation with Stephen Bann and Karen Lang was a brilliant replacement. I really enjoyed the different formats of the two plenary events; they gave each night a different flavour.
As always, AAH 2011 combined friendly accessibility with intellectual rigour. One of the things I really appreciate about AAH is the format of sessions, with each speaker giving a 30 minute paper followed by 10 minutes of question time. It means that ideas can be properly developed in the presentation and then properly thrashed out in discussion, as well as giving the audience enough time to move between sessions. However, I do think that we could have squeezed an extra paper into each session (4 rather than 3), especially on the Thursday and Saturday, which were only half days. Overall, fantastic work by Matt Lodder and Claire Davies of the AAH and by the organisers from the History of Art department at the University of Warwick.
Looking forward to doing it all again in Milton Keynes at the Open University for AAH 2012!