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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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.

Week in Review – 27 August

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tumblr_inline_otz2m6og971uxtbbs_1280.jpgHatfield Family Bible, Case folio BS185 1838.N4, Newberry Library

A round up of CFPs, conferences, and posts from the last week (…or so).

First up: a bit of self promo. There’s still a little while left before the deadline for our call for articles for the special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender StudiesMaking Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth Century. We’d love to see articles from you! The full CFA is available here.

Similarly, Cole Collins and I are really excited to read your collage-related abstracts for our upcoming conference Collage, Montage, Assemblage: Collected and Composite Forms, 1700-Present. The CFP is available here, and we even wrote a post on our favourite scholarly works on collage here.

Next, this post from the Newberry’s blog, The Rite Stuff, examining ‘Family History in a Bible’. I really enjoy the object biography approach taken to the object.

The programmes for the Enlightened Princesses conference, the vcologies 2 working group annual meeting, and the Alma-Tadema: Antiquity at Home and on Screen conference

CFPs that caught my eye this week included:

CFP – Passing: Fashion in American Cities

CFP – Interior Provocations – Interiors without Architecture

CFP – Making Things Modular

CFP – Fire and Water: Entangled Histories of Empire and Science in the Early Modern Americas

CFP – Remarkable Things: The Agency of Objecthood and The Power of Materiality

CFP – Creative Pedagogies: Approaches to the Commonplace Book

CFP – C19: Acts of Consumption: Performance, Bodies, Culture

CFP – Crafting an Enlightened World: Patronage & Pioneers

Today marks the beginning of my last week of my Short-Term Research Fellowship at the Winterthur Museum, so once the craziness of the summer has passed, I’ll be back to regular Week in Review posts, so watch this space!

Week in Review – 23 July

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My object of the week is this INCREDIBLE Album of Seaweed Pictures from 1848, now held at the Brooklyn Museum. The album was made as a gift for Augustus Graham, a member of the first board of directors of the Brooklyn Apprentice’s Library, later to become the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and the Brooklyn Museum.

I was really sorry to miss the Beyond Between Men symposium, so I hugely enjoyed reading Rachel E. Moss’s round-up blog post about the event. You can read it here.

The BAVS Talks 2017 videos are now all up online. You can take a look here.

CFP: CAA 2018 – Imperial Islands: Vision and Experience in the American Empire after 1898

Although the CFP deadline for the Home Comforts: The physical and emotional meanings of home in Europe, 1650-1900 conference has now passed, I still wanted to bring attention to this fascinating-sounding conference, which intersects interestingly with my current book project.

The edited volume Feminism and Art History Now: Radical Critiques of Theory and Practice, is out now from I B Tauris, and will be an essential resource for anyone using feminist theory in their art historical writing.

NOTCHES is seeking contributions for an upcoming and continuing series on transgender histories. See the CFP for full details, deadline September 15, 2017.

Issue 6 (Summer 2017) of British Art Studies is now live. The special issue focuses on Invention and Imagination in British Art and Architecture, 600–1500, and examines lots of fascinating objects at length and in depth.

Other conferences, CFPs, etc that caught my eye this week included:

  • CONF: Re/presenting the Body (Glasgow, 6-7 Jul 17)
  • CFP: Jewellery Matters (Amsterdam, 16-17 Nov 17)
  • CONF: Film|Bild|Emotion (Regensburg, 20-21 Jul 18)
  • CFP: Collecting Medieval Sculpture (Paris, 23-24 Nov 17)
  • CONF: Nineteenth-Century Art in Islamic Countries (Vienna, 6-9
    Jul 17)
  • CFP: Temporary and Mobile Domesticities, 1600 to the present – 10.10.2017, London
  • CFC: Special Issue of The History of the Family
  • CFP: Issue: Material and Visual Cultures of Religion in the American South

ECRS – 22 March

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Please join us for the next session of this year‘s Eighteenth-Century Research Seminar series at the University of Edinburgh. The session will present new work on gender and food studies and will feature Catherine Ellis (Durham University) 0n ‘How to understand the sex worker at the table: gastrocritical approaches to eighteenth-century French prostitution’, andJessica Hamel-Akré (University of Montreal), whose paper is entitled ‘“Oh, when shall I be holy?”: Reading and Writing Women’s Eighteenth-Century Self-Starvation’.

All welcome. Seminars are held at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, from 4:30-6pm, and are followed by a drinks reception. 

You can also follow the series on its twitter account @ECRS_Edinburgh. We’ll be live-tweeting the papers from that handle.