Category Archives: Art and Visual Studies

The Museums of Contemporary Art

Author of Ashgate classic title The Museums of Contemporary Art, J Pedro Lorente, spoke at the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University on Wednesday 17th June, giving a seminar on Open-air museums: a designation in vogue for public art in urban districts.

Art collections permanently exhibited in public spaces are sometimes called ‘open air museums”. This notion has been constructed over time, building on historical precedents and in dialectic interaction with other related concepts like ‘sculpture gardens’. The result is not a clear-cut definition, but a changing perception, carrying diverse connotations according to different languages and cultural contexts. The modern paradigm was set by Middelheim Open Lucht Museum created in 1950 by the municipality of Antwerp in a suburban park, emulated in the French-speaking University of Liège, since the creation in 1977 of a Musée en Plein Air in the campus of Sart Tilman; some features were slighly different in another famous instance, the Musée de sculpture à plein air de la Ville de Paris, inaugurated in 1980 on a riverbank between Île Saint-Louis and the Gare d’Austerlitz. But the triumph of a post-modern return to the city centre was heralded by the founding in 1972-79 of the polemical Museo de Escultura al Aire Libre in Madrid. Its influence has been enormous in Spain and other Latin countries, where many collections of public art gathered as part of urban regeneration processes have been proudly labeled as museums. Are they?

The Museums of contemporary artThe Museums of Contemporary Art

Where, how, by whom and for what were the first museums of contemporary art created? These are the key questions addressed by Pedro Lorente in this new and expanded edition of his groundbreaking 1998 study, Cathedrals of Urban Modernity. In it he explores the concept and history of museums of contemporary art, and the shifting ways in which they have been imagined and presented. The first part of the book examines the paradigm of the Musée des Artistes Vivants in Paris and its equivalents in the rest of Europe during the nineteenth century. The second part, consisting of entirely new material, takes the story from 1930 to the present. An epilogue reviews recent museum developments in the last decades.

The Photography for Being a Pilgrim- A Guest Post by Marilyn Deegan

Posted by Corey Boudreau, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

To mark the book’s selection as an Editor’s Choice, Marylin Deegan describes the events which led to the publication of Being a Pilgrim: Art and Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago


Being a pilgrimThe photography for Being a Pilgrim actually started many years before the project was ever suggested by Lund Humphries.  In 1992 I travelled to Conques, one of the towns on the pilgrimage route and itself a pilgrimage destination to the abbey church dedicated to St Foy, at the invitation of Kathy Ashley and her collaborator Pamela Sheingorn. Kathy and Pam were working on major studies of the cult of St Foy and asked me to take the photographs to accompany their texts. I was very happy to do so.

In 1992, and on our next trip in 1993, the technology I used was all analogue: a Canon EOS 1000fn film camera with a range of lenses and a tripod. The images were to be captured on both black and white film and on colour slides, which meant going around and photographing everything twice. Being only a keen amateur, I didn’t have dedicated cameras for each type of film. And then of course there was the uncertainty of not knowing if everything had been captured properly: was anything blurred?  Was the light right? The external scenes were fine, but inside, where there was little light, long exposures (a minute or more) had to be used, which introduced a great deal of uncertainty.

In the film world, we had to wait until we got home to see what we had produced. Mostly we worked with black and white film, and so I would get the negatives developed, with 3 sets of contact sheets, one for each of us.  Kathy and Pam worked in two different locations in the US, and I was based in Oxford.  Although we had email, we mostly worked on the images by telephone (‘sheet three, image 32a, middle cropped out and darkened a bit’). Then I got them printed and sent them off by post. The colour slides were less of a problem, and we worked from some of these for the images in Being a Pilgrim.

By the time we were commissioned to produce Being a Pilgrim in 2005/6, technology had moved on and we were using exclusively digital photography for new photography. This had many advantages, the main one being instant review of the pictures: it was transformative knowing straight away if we had or had not got a good shot. However, the digital brought problems as well. The ability to take as many shots as we wanted, from all sorts of angles and at different settings, meant that at the end of 3 years of photography trips we had 4000 images and had to choose just 250. And the 4000 was actually a selection of what we had taken, given that each evening when we were travelling, Kathy and I would review the day’s work and reject any images that were obviously flawed. But working together between the US and Europe was much easier—I would email batches of low resolution images and we would chat about them online or by phone. Knowing that we were looking at the same image at the same time made all the difference. The older images that were on slides were scanned in and edited alongside the newer born digital ones.

There were other problems with the photography—a big one was the weather! We had to travel to a fairly tight schedule to visit all the places we needed to see, and sometimes arrived in fog, mist or rain. Certain scenes were enhanced by a bit of atmosphere, most weren’t. So we did the best we could. Sometimes a shot was impossible and we had to get an important image from elsewhere; the famous chapel of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe perched on top of a steep rock at Le Puy en Velay is a good example. We had to buy an image from Corbis images as the chapel wasn’t even visible the day we were there. Other images that were less than the best they could be because of adverse weather were much improved with Photoshop. Another problem was time of day: sometimes we arrived at a site with only a half day in which to complete that day’s photography and the light wasn’t at the right angle. This necessitated return visits or more Photoshop.

Would I do anything differently now? Well, we finished the photography in 2008, and digital imaging has moved on rapidly. The lens quality and sensitivity of digital cameras are now so good that I can get excellent, publishable images using a handheld semi-professional compact camera like the Canon G15. This would mean for many shots no flash, no tripods, no long exposures, and therefore fewer problems with getting permission to take photographs: there are many churches and museums where cameras are allowed but no flash or tripods. This wouldn’t work everywhere: some very dark interiors needed exposures of a minute or more, with a good deal of post-processing. It would also mean that we might not have to carry so much equipment around: large camera, lenses, tripods, etc.  I’m not sure that the pictures would necessarily be better, but they would be easier to get.


About the Author: Marilyn Deegan is Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College, London. She is a medievalist, and a freelance writer and photographer.

Ravilious in Print


This blog post is from Modern British Artists – the blog of our sister imprint Lund Humphries

Originally posted on Modern British Artists:

Alan Powers, author of Eric Ravilious: Artist and Designer, discusses the current display of the artist’s works at Dulwich Picture Gallery and the challenges of accurately reproducing his unique watercolours in print.

It would have been convenient if Dulwich Picture Gallery had put on their current exhibition of Eric Ravilious watercolours two years ago. In June 2013, my book on him for Lund Humphries was written, edited and designed, and all that remained was to check the colour in the illustrations before it went off to print. I had last seen most of the paintings in 2003, when I was guest curator for the Ravilious retrospective at the Imperial War Museum, and although necessary in theory, it would have been impractical to go round all the locations, public and private, where they are held in the short time available for colour correction.

Pages from Ravilious Book pp1-216 Q8 v5

The accuracy of colour reproduction in…

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Being a Pilgrim – A Guest Post by Kathleen Ashley

Posted by Corey Boudreau, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Kathleen AshleyTo mark the book’s selection as an Editor’s Choice, Kathleen Ashley describes the events which led to the publication of Being a Pilgrim: Art and Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago


Published books almost always result from years of thought, research and writing; however, when I was asked in 2005 to write a book on the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, I can honestly say that the idea had never crossed my mind. Luckily, I had visited Santiago just the year before – a “holy year,” when the saint’s day July 25 falls on a Sunday. During July of holy years, ceremonies in the cathedral are more frequent than usual and the whole town reverberates with performances of music, dance, drama, and processions. Increased numbers of pilgrims and tourists arrive for the festivities, and the excitement continues night and day. With that Santiago experience still fresh in my memory, I was intrigued by the book request.

Being a pilgrimAlthough the subject of pilgrimage had never been my primary research focus, it did intersect with many of the topics I had written about during my scholarly career. A saint’s shrine was the destination of medieval pilgrimage, and I had written two books and many articles about saints and their cults. Pilgrimages typically attract fervent devotees whose personal goals may be at odds with the structures put in place by church authorities; I had always been fascinated by religious phenomena that depended upon an unstable conjunction of popular energy and official control. In particular, the pilgrimage journey — which included traditional stops at other saints’ shrines and local landmarks – demonstrated ritual practices and popular beliefs; exploring the Santiago pilgrimage between the 9th and the 18th centuries would allow me to test my theories about ritual and learn about the folklore alive on the routes. The promise of following my interests with a new focus on pilgrimage was certainly enough to persuade me to take on the project.

I further realized that the Santiago pilgrimage raised larger issues about how we understand history. Who has not wondered when reading about another time and place what it was like to live then? What did pilgrims experience as they traveled across unfamiliar territories and arrived at the shrine in westernmost Spain? I decided to make the pilgrim experience my unifying theme in Being a Pilgrim. I would organize the book by examining the legends of the saint that attracted pilgrims, the individual preparations (both material and ritual) for such an arduous trip, as well as the social infrastructures across Europe that enabled thousands of pilgrims to travel far from home. Imagining them en route, I tried to include the kinds of sights they would have seen – from religious buildings and art to new cities and challenging landscapes – and stories both new and familiar they would have heard. Finally, their arrival in Santiago was surely an exciting culmination of the pilgrimage, with dazzling rituals and festivity in and around the cathedral. To bring the experiences of individuals alive, I could use the many pilgrim narratives produced throughout Europe between the 12th and the 18th centuries.

Once my central concept for the book and a general outline of the nine chapters was accepted by the publishers, the next stage was research and planning for the photography trips along the main pilgrimage routes through France and Spain. I took the trips with my photographer-friend Marilyn Deegan, whose 250 color photos are no doubt the most memorable part of the book. Our travel adventures and the challenges of matching text and image will be the subjects of another blog.


About the Author: Professor Kathleen Ashley teaches at the University of Southern Maine and has published widely on medieval popular culture, hagiography and cultural history.

CFP: Allusion, Indirection, Enigma: Flirting with Early Modern Uncertainty

Posted by Bret Rothstein

Call for papers: Allusion, Indirection, Enigma: Flirting with Early Modern Uncertainty

Renaissance Society of America (Boston, March 31–April 2, 2016) #RSA16

Session organized by Bret Rothstein, Indiana University – Bloomington

Please send an abstract (up to 150 words) and a 300-word vita by May 31, 2015 to

Augustine may have believed in validity in interpretation, but the history of early modern Europe is thick with texts, objects, and ideas that seem to move in a very different direction. A striking number of images, texts, behaviors, musical scores, buildings, and even naturally-occurring objects seem designed, in a sense, to send the mind in any direction but the supposedly “right” one. (The matter becomes especially interesting with respect to “jokes of nature,” which might speak to a kind of divine mischief.) But why might this be the case? What was the value of getting things – very loosely conceived – wrong? In an attempt to begin answering such questions, this session is dedicated to the study of interpretive challenges, from theatrical productions to mathematical treatises, and from art works to naturally occurring objects. Its purpose is to promote conversation among scholars from across a range of disciplines about the social and cultural value of interpretation’s ugly stepchildren (confusion, misperception, ambivalence, and incomprehension, among others).


Bret Rothstein teaches in the Department of the History of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington, and is the editor for Ashgate’s Cultures of Play series.

Science and the Arts since 1750 – a new series

Ashgate seeks book proposals for a new series Science and the Arts since 1750 edited by Barbara Larson, University of West Florida, USA.

The series explores the arts – painting and sculpture, drama, dance, architecture, design, photography, popular culture materials – as they intersect with emergent scientific theories, agendas, and technologies, from any geographical area from 1750 to now. It welcomes studies on the aesthetic conditioning of scientists as well as those that explore the influence of technologies, medicine, and science on visual culture either in a specific cultural or social context or through webs of influence that cross national, political, or imperial boundaries. Projects additionally might address philosophies of mind, brain, and body that changed the way visuality and aesthetic theory were understood or how new theories can be used to reinterpret the past.

For more information about the series, including submission guidelines, please send an email enquiry to Margaret Michniewicz, at