Gender History

Book Review: Heather McPherson, Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons.

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My review of Heather McPherson’s 2017 book Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons is now available online as an early view copy from the Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies. Check it out here.

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My picks for the Association for Art History’s 2018 Annual Conference

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I’m currently in London for the Association for Art History’s 2018 Annual Conference, which is being held between the Courtauld Institute and King’s College London from tomorrow until Saturday. As ever, I’m struggling to whittle down the panels I want to go to, so I thought I’d post my long list of recommendations for sessions. Also, if you’re at the conference, come and say hi!

Thursday 5th April, 2018:

Contemporary Art Histories

Convened by Sam Rose and Emalee Beddoes, this panel promises a fascinating examination of both the role of contemporary art in writing art history, and what contemporary art histories look like. This particularly appeals to me due to a couple of case studies for my collage project, which actively use modern/postmodern art historical ideas to rethink the art of the past. Highlights from this session include papers on Giotto and Kauffman through a contemporary lens.

HIV in Visual Culture: Looking to interdisiplinary approaches & global histories

Neil MacDonald and Jackson Davidow’s session HIV in Visual Culture, provides a transnational, institutional history of the artistic and cultural production associated with the pandemic. I’m particularly keen to hear the papers dealing with HIV/AIDS in the archive.

Textility

Mechthild Fend and Anne Lafont’s panel, Textility, is probably the one I’ll go to tomorrow. Dealing with the relatively new theoretical framework of ‘textility’, the session examines the technologies of textiles, intersections with other art forms, and hierarchies. Highlights include Marcia Pointon’s paper (Marcia Pointon is always a highlight, tbh), copper smithing, and lamé.

 

Friday 6th April, 2018

Beyond Disciplinary Boundaries: History of Science and History of Art

This roundtable, hosted by Katy Barrett, Sachiko Kusukawa, Alexander Marr, Sietske Fransen, Katherine Reinhart, and Joanna Woodall comes out of the AHRC-funded project, ‘Making Visible: the visual and graphic practices of the early Royal Society’. The session abstract talks about the specific relevance of such an interdisciplinary approach for the early modern period, particularly in terms of histories of collecting. This should be a really fascinating discussion.

Dialogues: Things and their collectors

Nicole Cochrane, Lizzie Rogers, & Charlotte Johnson’s panel, Dialogues: Things and their collectors, is where you’re likely to find me on Friday. I couldn’t be more excited for all the mourning, ruins, and ceramics.

 

Saturday 7th April, 2018

Dangerous Portraits in the Early Modern World

Jennifer Germann and Melissa Percival’s session on dangerous portraits promises a fascinating reassessment of the genre. Topics include radical, mutinous, painful, and colonial portraiture.

Seeing and Hearing the ‘Beyond’: Art, music and mysticism in the Long 19th Century

My second pick for Saturday is Michelle Foot and Corrinne Chong’s panel, on the interrelationship between art, music, and mysticism between 1789 and 1918. Crossing artistic, disciplinary, and geographical boundaries, the papers ask what testing these distinctions might tell us about nineteenth-century spiritualism.

BOOK – Domestic Space in Britain, c.1750-1840: Materiality, Sociability and Emotion (Forthcoming, Bloomsbury Academic)

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I’m thrilled to announce that my book, Domestic Space in Late Georgian Britain: Materiality, Sociability and Emotion, c. 1750-1840 is now under contract with Bloomsbury Academic. I’ll be writing more posts about the book as it develops, but for now, I want to share the book’s draft blurb:

Between 1750 and 1840, the home took on unprecedented social and emotional significance. Focusing on the design, decoration, and reception of a range of elite and middling class homes from this period, Domestic Space in Late Georgian Britain demonstrates that the material culture of domestic life was central to how this function of the home was experienced, expressed, and understood at this time. Examining craft production and collection, gift exchange and written description, inheritance and loss, it carefully unpacks the material processes that made the home a focus for contemporaries’ social and emotional lives.

The first book on its subject, Domestic Space in Late Georgian Britain employs methodologies from both art history and material culture studies to examine previously unpublished interiors, spaces, texts, images, and objects. Utilising extensive archival research; visual, material, and textual analysis; and histories of emotion, sociability, and materiality, it sheds light on the decoration and reception of a broad array of domestic spaces. In so doing, it writes a new history of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century domestic space, establishing the materiality of the home as a crucial site for identity formation, social interaction, and emotional expression.

More soon!

Looking Forward to 2018

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Just as I did last year, I wanted to make a post on this blog reflecting on 2017, whilst also looking forward to what’s happening in 2018. I find these kinds of posts interesting for a number of reasons, but primarily as an exercise in accountability (and specifically, for countering inaccurate feelings of ‘I didn’t do anything last year!).

2017 was a challenging but hugely rewarding year. It was a year of many exciting firsts. Travel-wise, it was my first time in America (on fellowships at the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale Center for British Art, and the Winterthur Museum), and my first time visiting Sweden, Umeå for the International Society for Cultural History 2017 Conference. I delivered my first lectures as part of Edinburgh’s History of Art 2 course, and I taught an honours course on my own for the first time, having previously taught at pre-hons for a number of years. I was also awarded my first postdoctoral fellowship, at IASH, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, and I received short-term research fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center and the Huntington Library. Perhaps most excitingly, the last few months of 2017 have also seen the acceptance of my first journal article (to be published next year, in the journal Eighteenth-Century Fiction), and, in the last few days (!), my first book (more to come on this asap).

I also taught. A lot. In fact, I taught six courses across three schools, although my teaching load has been massively reduced since beginning my Postdoctoral Fellowship at IASH in September. IASH is a wonderfully engaging and supportive scholarly community, and I’m glad to be there until August of next year.

Indeed, 2018 is looking just as busy as 2017.

In January, I will continue writing and revising an article on collage, masculinity and Modernism, which will also form the basis of my January 10th Work in Progress Seminar at IASH (details here). I’m also delivering a Research Successes Forum workshop on ‘Fellowships’ on January 22nd. January will also see me back to teaching, as I cover Prof. Viccy Coltman’s hugely exciting 4th-year course, ‘From Jacobitism to Romanticism: The (Re)invention of Scotland in Visual and Material Culture’.

Apart from teaching, February to May will see me do lots more writing – particularly for my article, ‘Reflective and Reflexive Forms: Intimacy and Medium Specificity in British and American Sentimental Albums, 1780-1850’, an abstract for which was accepted for Journal18: a journal of eighteenth-century art and culture‘s special issue on ‘Albums’, due late 2018.

I’ll also be writing and revising the remaining chapters of my first book at this time, as well as editing mine and Katie Faulkner’s special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies on ‘Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century’. The submissions we’ve had are hugely exciting, and I’m so looking forward to seeing this published next summer.

In April, our conference Collage, Montage, Assemblage: Collected and Composite Forms, 1700-Present, will be held at the University of Edinburgh. We received over 120 abstracts for the conference, attesting to the vibrant and dynamic nature of this area of research. We’ll be finalising speakers and the programme very soon, and I’ll post that here then.

In June and July, I’m back to America, this time spending two consecutive months away, at the Huntington Library and the Harry Ransom Center, respectively. In August, I’m back to Edinburgh for a final month at IASH, which will provide the perfect opportunity to round things off.

As last year, I’ll have to end my post at a fairly-uncertain-September 2018, but what I know for sure is that I’ll be desperately trying to finish my book at that point, which is due by the end of 2018.

What are your plans for next year? Let me know using my twitter handle @Freya_Gowrley.

IASH Twitter Takeover – Favourite Collages #4 – Plas Newydd’s Windows

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My final ‘favourite collage’ that I’m going to share for my IASH twitter takeover are these windows, located in the Library at Plas Newydd, North Wales. Home to the so-called ‘Ladies of Llangollen’, Eleanor Bulter and Sarah Ponsonby, from around 1788 until 1831, Plas Newydd was (and still is) adorned with a rich collection of objects, many of them given to the women by their close friends, and subsequently integrated into the very fabric of their home.

This process of acquisition and integration is exemplified by the construction of the stained-glass windows of the house’s library. Employing glass variously found at Valle Crucis, a nearby ruined abbey; purchased from the Birmingham glass maker and painter, Francis Eginton; and donated by the women’s friends; the windows form an intoxicating bricolage of brightly coloured and fragmented glass, encompassing representations of biblical scenes, heraldry, foliate designs, abstract patterns, and block colour.

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This included a casement of glass from their friend Mr Owen, who had recently removed the stained glass of his home, Brogyntyn Hall. While this gift has an obvious antiquarian significance, its relocation into the space of Plas Newydd built on this genealogical function to reinforce the relationship between donor and recipient. Made from numerous gifted fragments, the house’s stained glass windows function as a tribute to the thriving gift culture in which Butler and Ponsonby and their friends were implicated. At the same time, by combining these with a diverse array of collected, found and acquired, pieces of glass, they also demonstrate the connectedness between the women, their acquaintances, and their locale.

I talk more about gift culture of Plas Newydd in my book, Home Ties: Materiality, Sociability, and Emotion in British Domestic Space, 1750-1840, which is currently under review at Bloomsbury (and hopefully I’ll be able to post an update about this very soon!!). I’ve so enjoyed being able to share some of the key collages for my postdoctoral research project with you on the IASH twitter page this week, so I think I’ll make this a regular series on the blog as the project develops.

IASH Twitter Takeover – Favourite Collages #3 – The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt

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The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, often abbreviated to AIDS Memorial Quilt, is the largest piece of folk art in the world, and is dedicated to the lives of people who have died from AIDS-related causes. The above image shows just a tiny portion of this amazing object, which weighs around 54 tonnes, and is continuously being updated and added to. You can read more about the quilt here: http://www.aidsquilt.org/

Each of the quilt’s panels is roughly the size of an average grave – a specific choice meant to evoke the fact that those who died from AIDS often didn’t receive funerals due to the social stigma surrounding the condition. Using the traditional association between quilts and familial or social relationships, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt employs the quilted form as a highly evocative emotional gesture. At once massive in scale – as the below image of the Quilt powerfully demonstrates – and characterised by tiny, intricate detail, the Quilt presents this relationship on two levels. Firstly, its massiveness highlights the sheer and unbelievable scale of the condition, an immediate, arresting, and heartbreaking sight. Secondly, the highly personal nature of the individual panels – often made by grieving friends and family – highlights the devastating impact of AIDS on an individual level.

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Collage – particularly these kinds of ‘folk’ our ‘outsider’ manifestations – lies outside of ‘high art’ as it is traditionally understood. However, objects like the Quilt demonstrate its potential to disrupt not only aesthetic narratives, but social ones, bringing crucial issues and minority identities to the forefront of art historical conversation.

IASH Twitter Takeover – Favourite Collages #2 – the commonplace books of Ellen Warter

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In the second of my IASH Twitter Takeover ‘favourite collages’ posts, I want to talk about something that you might not think about as being a collage at all – two commonplace books made c.1885 by Ellen Warter, the granddaughter of the Romantic poet Robert Southey, now held at the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh.

img_2435 2Page from the commonplace book of Ellen Warter, granddaughter of Robert Southey, Coll-1559, Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

A popular practice since classical antiquity, the production of commonplace books involved the compilation of excerpted texts from a broad array of writers on a variety of topics. Like traditional paper collage, then, they are collections of materials from a range of different sources, reformulated into a new object. Despite this compiled and composite nature, commonplace books are rarely conceived of in relation to collage. Instead, they tend to be discussed more as records of reading practices, knowledge exchange, and education.

Yet Ellen Warter’s commonplace books tell a more complex story than this.Warter devoted over 300 pages of her volumes to the lives and literature of the Brontë family, who were the objects of her sustained estimation, affection, and documentation. This specific emphasis upon the Brontës relates Warter’s albums to a specific type of album-making: namely, the production of volumes dedicated to literary celebrities, a practice enacted throughout the nineteenth century. Beyond this fascination with the Brontës however, the practice of commonplacing was firmly intertwined with Warter’s own family history. As the granddaughter of Robert Southey, she was part of a family whose own commonplacing and album-making spanned several generations. Warter’s grandfather, aunts, mother, and father all made, or contributed to the production of, composite volumes, a literary inheritance that places Warter’s own productions within a longer history and set of material practices. Crucially, such practices were also enacted within the broader Romantic circle, with Southey contributing to the volumes of his friends’ daughters, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Caroline Bowles, Charles Lamb, and Edward Quillinan reciprocally adding poems to the albums of Edith Southey, Warter’s mother. For Warter then, commonplacing was not only an educative practice, but an inherently social one, with her compilation of ‘Brontëana’ consistent with the collective practices of her own extended literary family.

More than the sum of their collaged parts then, Warter’s commonplace books are not only a collection of individual details and textual clippings, but evoke the broader contexts of authorship, celebrity, and collaboration.