New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art (NDENCA) seminars take place via Zoom and are open to all.


Series 4: May – July 2021

  1. Monday 24 May 2021

Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Leeds, Curator, 17th and 18thC Ceramics and Glass, V&A Museum

Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth is an art and design historian who specialises in European decorative arts, material culture and the histories of collecting. She was recently appointed as the new Curator of 17th and 18th Century Ceramics and Glass at the V&A Museum, London. Since September 2018, Caroline has worked as a Lecturer on the History of Design Masters with the V&A and the Royal College of Art, where she continues to teach and supervise postgraduate students.  

Caroline gained her PhD at the University of Leeds in 2019, where she is now also a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. She sits on the Board of the French Porcelain Society, is a founding member of the Society for the History of Collecting, a Board Member of the English Ceramics Circle, and an External Examiner in Design History for University of Sunderland.

‘Sèvres-mania’ and the Standardisation of Ceramics Connoisseurship

In February 1882 the authenticity of two pink-ground eighteenth-century ‘old’ Sèvres porcelain vases hit the press in a cause-célèbre court case between the tradesman and collector William Goode, and the Wertheimer family of art dealers. During the three-day case some of the most notable collectors, dealers, artists, and scholars examined the objects in person, engaging in a performative connoisseurial investigation. In the end, they failed to reach a satisfactory agreement, calling into question the reliability of connoisseurship and damaging the supremacy of the highly profitable market for ‘old’ Sèvres. Although a revered and somewhat standardised system of ceramics connoisseurship had emerged during the nineteenth century, this court case demonstrated a settlement in the grammar of knowledge.

By situating the distinct material and cultural significance of ‘old’eighteenth-century pâte tendre Sèvres within a range of transnational collecting networks, this project considers for the first time the epistemological foundations of ceramics connoisseurship. Using Latourian theory and concepts of communities of practice it examines the dynamics at play within these networks, whereby ‘each participant is treated as a full-blown mediator.’ As figures engaged in an epistemic and haptic engagement with ‘old’ Sèvres, objects and knowledge were exchanged through a range of actors: from collector, to dealer, agent, museum and auction house. How was this tacit knowledge expressed and communicated implicitly? When did it shift towards a more explicit, documentary-approach? And what disciplinary structures or linguistic limitations were projected onto such connoisseurial knowledge by those who attempted to shape a more standardised discourse? Whilst the role played by connoisseurship is embedded implicitly in the study of the decorative arts, and is often one of the main disciplinary critiques directed towards the study of ceramics, its formation and historical roots have never before received critical attention. In its broadest sense, I consider what this research reveals about broader disciplinary boundaries, especially the dichotomy between the study of the fine and the decorative arts within art historical discourse.

2. Monday 7 June 2021

Dr Amara Thornton (Honorary Research Associate, UCL Institute of Archaeology)

Amara Thornton is an Honorary Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Archaeology.  She led the joint University of Reading and British Museum partnership project “Narrating the Diverse Past”, of which the Mapping Collections Histories digital exhibition was a key output. Previous to this, Amara was Research Officer at the University of Reading’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology. In 2018, Amara published her first book, Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People. Her second book, Strange Relics: Stories of Archaeology and the Supernatural, an anthology of short stories co-edited with Dr Katy Soar, will be published by Handheld Press in 2022. Amara founded and continues to lead the UCL Institute of Archaeology’s History of Archaeology Network, and in response to the ongoing pandemic has established the “Historians of Archaeology” interview series.

Caribbean Collections Histories: Archaeology and Empire

Britain’s colonisation of the Caribbean between the 17th and 18th centuries resulted, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the transfer of antiquities from the region to UK museums. This presentation will explore some collections histories relating to artefacts from the Caribbean acquired or excavated during the 19th and early 20thcenturies when many Caribbean islands were British colonies. It will reveal some of the people and organisations critical to encouraging and facilitating the assembly and display of Caribbean artefacts both within the Caribbean and in the UK, in part through discussing the research behind the digital exhibition “Mapping Collections Histories: Barbados and Britain”, which launched in January 2021.

In presenting these collections histories, I will discuss the source material I have used – sources that are at present confined entirely to published travelogues and newspaper articles, which privilege the White experience of and colonial engagement with the Caribbean. But these sources also reference Black Caribbean people engaging in exploration and discovery, indicating the potential for a much more diverse and inclusive understanding of the contributors to collections of Caribbean artefacts. In charting these collections histories, this presentation will also interrogate the ways in which the legacies of empire and enslavement might impact the visibility of collections of Caribbean artefacts in the UK today. 

3. Monday 14 June 2021

Nat Reeve, PhD Candidate, Royal Holloway, University of London

Nat Reeve is an AHRC TECHNE-funded doctoral candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, working on everything queer, spectral, medievalist and disruptive in Elizabeth Siddal’s art and poetry. They’re especially intrigued by Siddal’s weird reworkings of medieval objects, persistent destabilisation of visual and literary sources, unnerving landscapes, and shifting attitudes towards nineteenth-century creative practice. Nat is the 2020 Pre-Raphaelite Fellow at the University of Delaware/Delaware Arts Museum, and the 2019-20 Co-Director of the Royal Holloway Centre for Victorian Studies. Their essay ‘Talking to Trees: Elizabeth Siddal and Dante Alighieri’ was published in the critical-creative pamphlet Green Blues (2020), and their work on Siddal and Georgiana Burne-Jones forms part of a forthcoming publication. They have also created a podcast episode on ‘Elizabeth Siddal’s Chaotic Medievalism’, a blog post for NDENCA, and numerous queer performances for the Royal Holloway Arts Collections and Picture Gallery.  

‘Queer Tombs and Reframing Doom: Elizabeth Siddal and Georgiana Burne-Jones’s unfinished collaborative project’

In 1860, the Pre-Raphaelite artist-poet Elizabeth Siddal joined forces with Georgiana Burne-Jones, as the two planned to write and illustrate a ‘book of Fairy Tales’ together. Though the project was never finished, both Siddal and Burne-Jones made contributions for it.

I wish to affirm the importance of this unexplored, multi-disciplinary creative conversation between Siddal and Burne-Jones. The incompleteness of their ‘book of Fairy Tales’ should not prohibit study. Instead, the project’s unfinished state creates alternative opportunities, opening the works to interpretations which foreground the queerness of their relationship with the projected genre and format in which they do not entirely partake.

My paper will focus on two contributions to this unfinished project – Burne-Jones’s drawing ‘Death and the Lady’ (1861), and Siddal’s poem ‘True Love’ (c.1860-62) – and, working with queer theory, will explore the queerness of their response to the pictorial and literary traditions which informed them. Siddal and Burne-Jones’s works are both concerned with the predicament of a ‘Lady’ facing certain doom in a medievalist setting – whether in the form of a skeleton haunting her chambers, or a grim fate threatening her at someone else’s tomb. Both works preserve a moment of incompleteness, in which the doom has been determined, but the consequences have not been fully felt. The works, however, move beyond simply dooming their central figures. Instead, they overhaul medieval precedents like the Danse Macabre and disrupt direful ballad narratives to consider how the ‘Lady’ might position herself in the space between disaster and consequence, and what she might draw out of such deadly stimulus. Siddal and Burne-Jones’s engagement with impending doom also reaches beyond the Pre-Raphaelite constellation to speak to broader nineteenth-century (and indeed contemporary) concerns: as I will show, the works reflect on how to respond to disaster, and whether there might be less frightening, more productive ways of framing uncertainty, disruption and incompleteness.

4. Monday 21 June 2021

Dr Emily Doucet, University of Toronto

Emily Doucet (she/her) received her PhD in Art History from the University of Toronto (2020). In 2021 she will be an International Fellow with the Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen, Germany and the Singer Family Fellow at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, Canada. From 2022-2023 she will be a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. She has written on historical and contemporary art and visual culture for a variety of publications, including Border Crossings, C Magazine, Canadian Art online, Communication + 1, Lady Science, Public Parking, and the Oxford Art Journal. Recently, she co-edited a special issue of the journal Grey Room on the theme of the aerial image in modern European art and visual culture.

‘Illuminating Infrastructures: Nadar’s Underwater Photography and the Expansion of Marseille’s Modern Port’

Known for his many photographic “firsts,” the photographer Félix Nadar claimed yet another inaugural photographic moment in 1900. Proclaiming (incorrectly) that he was the first to photograph underwater, Nadar promoted his series of images documenting underwater construction work on the Marseille port as indicative of both his own technical prowess and France’s achievements in maritime engineering. These images circulated as cabinet cards, individual photographic prints, engraved newspaper reproductions, and as part of a larger photographic album documenting the construction project. Nadar’s little-known images of the expansion of Marseille’s port participated in a broader French cultural discourse which positioned Marseille as a primary node in a global network and a site key to building and maintaining French economic and colonial power. Drawing on unpublished manuscripts by Nadar, an analysis of the circulation of these images, and employing theoretical approaches from critical infrastructure studies, this paper argues that Nadar’s “underwater” images of the expansion of Marseille’s evidence strategies by which Nadar participated in efforts to historicize and naturalize the infrastructure of French colonial expansion. In examining this episode, this paper also critically examines the historical infrastructure of “photographic firsts” and their implicit relationship to the political project of French modernity.

5. Monday 28 June 2021

Dr Miguel Angel Gaete, PhD Candidate, University of York

Dr. Miguel Gaete is a PhD student in History of Art at The University of York, United Kingdom. His main research matter is the Romantic period. Currently, he investigates the imbrication between sciences and arts in romantic German explorer artists journeying across Latin America in the nineteenth century. His research and pedagogical interests also include decolonising thinking in Latin America and the aesthetic theory of the sublime and its impact on contemporary visual arts, urbanism and architecture.

Miguel got a Masters degree in advanced studies in History of Art at Universidad de Barcelona, Spain, and also he accomplished a first PhD in Philosophy (aesthetic) at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. Among his achievements is the getting of several scholarships, presentations in international congresses and publications in academic journals and chapter books in countries such as Canada, Chile, Spain, and Brazil.

‘Territorial fantasies, sexual nuances, and savage energy: Orientalism and Tropicality in Eugène Delacroix and Johann Moritz Rugendas.’

The German romantic painter Johann Moritz Rugendas undertook his first journey through Mexico and South America between 1822 and 1825. Later, between 1831 and 1846, he made a second trip, encouraged by Alexander von Humboldt and other romantic painters. In 1832, Eugène Delacroix started a six-month journey to Spain and North Africa as a part of a diplomatic mission. Both artists profusely translated their travels into words and rich images of tropical South America and the Orient. Paintings and illustrations of remote lands and people meant a milestone in their careers, becoming prime examples of how Europe saw and perceived the rest of the world in the nineteenth century. Thus, they were not only mere agents and promoters of two important aesthetic trends of that time: Orientalism and Tropicality, but they became the embodiment of two ways of seeing and fantasising the Others.

This presentation places these two artists against each other to contrast the set of ideas and cultural preconceptions resting behind a sizeable number of paintings, drawings, and illustrations of their East and South America experiences. The central argument is that both Tropicality and Orientalism were comparable phenomena based on the same common tropes and racial assumptions. A series of elements in Rugendas and Delacroix’s works would prove such equivalence. Some themes that will be analysed are the eroticisation of female bodies and the linkage between South America and the East with everlasting ideas of violence, adventures, and savageness.

6. Monday 5 July 2021

Kate Heller, Research Associate, Art Institute of Chicago

Kate Heller is Research Associate of Applied Arts of Europe at the Art Institute of Chicago. She specializes in British, German, and Scandinavian decorative art and design of the long nineteenth century and is especially interested in materiality, historic revivals, ecocriticism and postcolonialism. She has a particular affinity for metalwork, contributing to two upcoming publications on silver. Kate received a B.A. in Art History and Scandinavian Languages and Literature from the University of Minnesota in 2015 and an M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from Case Western Reserve University in 2019. She completed curatorial fellowships at the Weisman Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

‘Wrought(-Iron) Boundaries: A Victorian Ecology of Thomas Jeckyll’s Norwich Gates’

The recent ecocritical turn in humanities scholarship has produced thoughtful considerations of the inseparability between the environment and visual and material culture. This academic movement, however, is grounded in philosophies espoused by Victorian design pundits such as A.W.N. Pugin, John Ruskin, and William Morris. My paper offers a fresh ecocritical interpretation of an under-studied nineteenth-century British architectural icon: Thomas Jeckyll’s Norwich Gates housed at the royal countryside estate, Sandringham. Constructed in iron, and initially displayed at the 1862 London International Exhibition, the Norwich Gates garnered unprecedented praise for ironwork and spurred a revival in wrought-iron craftsmanship. The Victorian era witnessed a prolific rise in the use of cast-iron architecture, ornamentation, and commodities that was immediately followed by reeling backlash from critics. A distinction was drawn between cast iron, poured into a mold, and wrought iron, hand-forged on an anvil.

Coinciding with the development of conservationism and socialism, detractors expounded on the degrading effects the production and utilization of cast iron had on the environment and workforce. In reality, these Victorian thinkers were exposing an infinite web of interconnections, an ecology between nature and society, with iron at its heart. Jeckyll’s Norwich Gates, ornamented in hand-wrought iron, were a direct response to this ecological philosophy. This paper examines the Norwich Gates as a medium, device, and livelihood. By analyzing Jeckyll’s design and intentions, the gates’ construction and materiality, and their exhibition, this paper unveils a multitude of ecocritical associations intrinsic to these gates. As they evolved throughout the nineteenth century, the Norwich Gates became an exemplary reflection of the environmental and societal boundaries that so defined the Victorian era. Divided into three sections, this paper features three case studies of the Norwich Gates. Each examines a different boundary or distinction. The first is an extended look at Jeckyll’s design and his melding of materials within the context of iron criticism. Next, an analysis of their role as park gates and fencing helps elucidate a disjunction in Victorian perceptions of the environment. Lastly, the use of the gates as a barrier at Sandringham solidifies their changing societal position from one of working-class livelihood to one of hierarchical exclusion.

7. Monday 12 July 2021

Dr Camilla Pietrabissa, Postdoctoral fellow, IUAV University of Venice

Camilla Pietrabissa holds a PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art. She is a postdoctoral fellow at IUAV University of Venice and teaches the history of early modern art at Bocconi University in Milan. Her research focuses on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century visual culture in France and Italy, the history and theory of drawing, urban and environmental history, and the politics of nature in the early modern states. She is currently researching the drawn veduta in eighteenth-century Venice in relation to the visual cultures of theatre stage design and topographical prints made for tourists. Camilla’s first book, titled Drawing urban nature in early 18th-century Paris is forthcoming in 2021. Her work has been published on Dix-huitième siècle, Engramma, La revue de l’art, and The Burlington Magazine. Next summer, she will work in Munich as the Panofsky Fellow at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI).

‘Drawing in 18th-century Venice: the origins of the veduta and the modern culture of spectacle.’

Since the seventeenth century, Venice was the Italian capital of a proto-industry of visual spectacles, including baroque operas and street optical shows. By the eighteenth century, the development of the Venetian veduta had come to exemplify, by virtue of its association to the camera obscura, this area of modern artistic production. This seminar will investigate the drawn views made in Venice in the early eighteenth century in relation to the visual culture of theatrical stage design and topographic print – two popular forms of art that focus on mass audience to activate the reuse of collective imaginaries of urban history. Focusing on drawings by artists such as Antonio Canal or ‘Canaletto’, Francesco Guardi, and Bernardo Bellotto, this seminar shows the role of the veduta in carrying these popular art forms into the more elevated idioms of interior decoration and cabinet pictures.

The first part of the talk will revise the historiography of Venetian drawing, tracing the debates on the eighteenth-century veduta between architecture historians, theatre historians, and art historians. In most art historical narratives in particular, the sketches and the more finished drawings by the vedutisti feature as a minor practice, almost always made in preparation for painting cycles. For example, Canaletto is hard to fit in these narratives, unlike the most famous draughtsmen of the time, namely Tiepolo and Piazzetta; disegno, a notion tightly connected with the creation of art academies and with the ideal of the intellectual artist, is not normally associated with the work of the vedutisti. The second part of the talk relocates the drawn veduta in relation to local visual culture. To do so, it presents a case study of Canaletto’s album of drawings of the Grand Canal that create a ‘cinematic’ sequence, suggesting movement along the water. The logic of seriality, borrowed from theatre design and topographic albums, is posited as intrinsic to the material culture of popular art forms in the modern city. Ultimately, the Venetian veduta in the form of drawing, by virtue of its relation with the serial media diffused during the first half of the 17th century, should be recognised as an archetypal medium of modernity.

8. Monday 19 July 2021

Dr Samuel Raybone, Lecturer in Art History, Aberystwyth University

Samuel Raybone is Lecturer in Art History at Aberystwyth University. His new book, Gustave Caillebotte as Worker, Collector, Painter, re-interprets the career of this once-forgotten painter by foregrounding his compulsions to work and to collect. His current research explores the globality and globalisation of impressionism, paying special attention to its creative rearticulations in global peripheries. This project responds to postcolonial calls to ‘provincialize impressionism’, on which subject Raybone convened a panel at AAH2021. In addition to the history and historiography of Impressionism, other strands of his research examine intersections of class and disability in nineteenth-century French photography; the place of images in ephemeral material culture; and historicity and aesthetics in the writings of Walter Benjamin.

‘Global impressionism and the idea of Wales’

In February 1913, the National Museum of Wales staged ‘the greatest artistic event in the history of Wales’, its first ever exhibition of paintings that its organisers hoped would ‘be a milestone in Welsh artistic development’, a truly ‘national affair’. Drawing largely from the trailblazing private collection of coal heiresses Gwendoline and Margaret Davies of Llandinam, the Loan Exhibition of Paintings offered the Welsh public their first opportunity to see and learn from ‘what is greatest in the art of the last century’: impressionism. Édouard Manet’s ‘personal observation of nature’; Claude Monet’s ‘analysis of light (… and) atmospheric effects’; and James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s ‘melting (of form) into a liquid sky’ were thus showcased alongside the ‘mists of the valleys’ captured by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot; ‘the bath of air and light’ seen by J. M. W. Turner; and the ‘extreme simplicity’ of Charles-François Daubigny. This loose canon of impressionism reflected the participation of its organisers in the transnational networks connecting Cardiff to London, Paris, and beyond; it was intended to ‘direct’ the Welsh public in a more ‘noble standard of taste’ and so ‘give stimulus to the long-delayed revival in Welsh art’,and thus, the Welsh nation.

Looking outwards and backwards from the 1913 Loan Exhibition, this paper explores the ties that bound impressionist painting and ideas of Wales in the long nineteenth century. The very idea that Wales needed an artistic revival spoke to a pernicious myth about ‘art apathy in Wales’ as being rooted in a congenital ‘philistinism’ among the Welsh people. As Peter Lord has shown, this notion had deep roots in the eighteenth century and manifest in ‘picturesque’ landscapes that identified Wales with its natural beauty and marginalised her people as ‘bucolic furniture’. It was no coincidence, I suggest, that the 1913 Loan Exhibition centred on ‘modern’ landscapes. Indeed, the positioning of impressionist painting as a catalyst for national revival spoke to the hopes and anxieties of a nation in the grip of rapid modernisation. As new global and transnational histories of impressionism are demonstrating, ‘impressionism’ circulated globally in this period as an ‘indexical sign of modernity’. Drawing from and responding to this new direction in nineteenth-century art history, this paper traces the generation of a distinctly Welsh interpretation of impressionism, borne of the dialogue between global traffic and local identities.

9. Monday 26 July 2021

Cabelle Ahn, PhD Candidate, Harvard University

Cabelle Ahn is a PhD Candidate in History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. She received her masters from the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Bard Graduate Center. Her talk is drawn for her dissertation titled “Multiple Exposures: Drawing Exhibitions in Eighteenth-century France,” which examines the public display of drawings from late seventeenth-century Italy to Revolutionary Paris. Her research has been funded by the Lee Whittinghill Samuelson Fellowship at Harvard University, The Samuel H. Kress Predoctoral Fellowship at the Drawing Institute at The Morgan Library and Museum, NY, and The Chandler-Ott Fellowship at Wellesley College, MA. Previously, she has held research positions at Harvard Art Museums, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to eighteenth-century French drawings and prints, her research interests include artistic exchanges between the Netherlands and France, history of the art market, and the impact of Old Masters in contemporary art. 

‘Drawing Site-Specificity: The 1797 Exhibition of Drawings in the Louvre’

The term “site-specificity” has been defined in relation to art of the late 1960s rather than that of the 1760s. As Miwon Kwon has demonstrated at length, artists of the 1960s and 70s produced spatially, geographically, or institutionally indebted works that reacted against the modernist valorization of autonomy and self-referentiality. Since site-specificity—whether it be an interruptive or an assimilative approach—has been theorized as a reaction against the modernist paradigm, it has been sparsely applied to early modern art, much less early modern exhibitions. This proposed paper considers the 1797 exhibition of drawings in Paris vis-à-vis what may be conceptualized as a graphic site-specificity in order to rethink techniques and effects of not only art exhibitions in the eighteenth century, but also of drawing exhibitions. The aforementioned display opened on August 15, 1797 in the Galerie d’Apollon in the Louvre. It featured 477 drawings largely drawn from the previous royal collection in addition to a handful of sheets acquired and appropriated from disgraced or destitute collectors.

The drawings varied in terms of artistic school, size, media, level of finish, and function: a list that included Michelangelo’s study of a hand, Primaticcio’s preparatory sketches for decorations at Fontainebleau, Paul Bril’s landscapes, Rosalba Carriera’s pastels, Charles Le Brun’s physiognomic studies, and massive cartoons for tapestries by Giulio Romano. The installation was intended to be a temporary salve while the Louvre was being renovated to receive art raided by Napoleon’s army. However, the display was updated in 1802 and lasted in a reduced format until 1825. The historical weight of the 1797 exhibition has been greatly understudied as it was not only the first public drawing only exhibition in Europe, but as I also argue, the first site-specific exhibition in eighteenth-century France. The display, on the one hand, was uniquely moored in its architectural space, with drawings particularly selected for their explicit and implicit connections to the Galerie d’Apollon, which subsequently invited a spatial expansion of drawing as a medium. On the other hand, the exhibition and the accompanying ephemera refracted the institutional reprogramming unfolding as the Louvre was being transformed into a central stage for articulating French cultural dominance. This proposed paper particularly focuses on the contemporary debates concerning the spatial and pedagogical parameters of the installation as well as on the exhibition ephemera that sought to intentionally mobilize site, sight, and insight. Considering how this exhibition (staged during the height of the French Revolution) integrated and intervened in both the space and the order of the Louvre invites resonances beyond French art, to questions of display at a moment when history itself was made fraught.