Category Archives: Art and Visual Studies

Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California – ‘an essential monograph’

Manufacturing the modern patron in Victorian CaliforniaPosted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

One year since the publication of John Ott’s Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California: Cultural Philanthropy, Industrial Capital, and Social Authority, a review written by Bruce Robertson, well-known curator and art historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been published in caa.reviews.

He writes:

‘This tight focus produces excitingly close and complex readings of works and events, offering new insights into well-known objects and actions … it is patronage, not just the collecting of art, that most concerns Ott. And this is what brings the book to life: the cut and thrust of patronage, of clients’ demands and artists’ resistance … and patronage resoundingly resisted by those whom it is supposed to benefit. Abiding within the circumscribed boundaries of his project, Ott succeeds in making major contributions not just as a patronage study, but also in regard to how works of art are produced and disseminated and understood in this period, how visual systems are created and the work they do, how museums grow, and so on. The book becomes an essential monograph for understanding how American visual culture is created and performs in this period.’

John Ott, who is Associate Professor of Art History at James Madison University, received a publication grant for his book from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. His book uses the example of Central Pacific Railroad executives to rewrite narratives of American art from the perspective of patrons and collectors, rather than the usual art historical protagonists – the artists themselves. The new modern elite classes are shown to use art – regional landscapes, panoramic and stop-motion photography, history paintings of the California Gold Rush, the architecture of Stanford University, and the design of domestic galleries – to legitimise trends in industrial capitalism. Art consumers are thus taken seriously as active contributors to the cultural meanings of artwork.

Robertson ends his review: ‘one thing is for certain, Ott’s book is a worthy successor to [Sarah] Burn’s study [Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America (New Haven, 1996)], and it should have a similarly galvanizing effect on the field.’ We look forward to seeing the book’s effect on art historical scholarship in the years to come.

Ann C. Colley on Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain

 

Ann C ColleyPosted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

Ann C. Colley (pictured) talks to Ann Donahue about her new book, Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain: Zoos, Collections, Portraits, and Maps

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

I had just finished my Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, which had not only appealed to my love of landscape and admiration for climbers, but had also taken me to libraries and clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. It was when I entered the Wellcome Institute on Euston Road that something clicked. The Institute had launched a special exhibit on “Skin” that I found absolutely fascinating. I recall seeing pieces of tattooed skin taken from sailors in the nineteenth century and wondering about the role of skin and identity. Knowing that the role of skin in human portraiture during the Victorian era has been well rehearsed, I turned my thinking to animal skins and portraiture. Before I knew it, I was launched.

Wild animal skins in Victorian BritainYour book connects to so many areas of current interest in the humanities, including animal studies, museums, collecting, sensory studies, and the history of science. Were you surprised at the multiple directions in which your research led you?

No. Indeed I was drawn to the subject because it would do just that. Cultural studies are appealing because they engage so many intersecting disciplines and take one into unusual archives and libraries not open to the general public. Once I began accumulating materials, I immediately saw that the project would fit into the current interest in animal studies, museum studies, theories of portraiture, British colonialism, collecting, theories of touch and skin, as well as in history of science.

You came upon some fascinating characters in the course of your research, including the Earl of Derby. Can you say a few words about him as a collector and his association with Edward Lear?

For several years I have been buying Lear’s watercolor sketches as well as lithographs of his natural history paintings. Through this interest, of course, I knew that between 1831 and 1837, he was employed by the 12th Earl of Derby and later by the Earl’s son to sketch and paint portraits of the wild animals and exotic birds kept on the estate, which was the site of England’s largest private menagerie. To amass their amazing collection, the 12th and the 13th Earls commissioned collectors and agents from all over the world. The resulting correspondence between the 13th Earl of Derby and these agents makes for incredible reading. Lear was privy to this world and to those who worked for and were related to the Earl of Derby.

I was fascinated to learn that collecting animal skins was not just the prerogative of the privileged classes as I would have thought that collecting these specimens would be extremely costly. How common was this form of collecting among working- and middle-class individuals?

There are several studies of the working class and their interest in science, particularly those that discuss the fact that mill owners and manufacturers often encouraged their employees to learn as much as they could about the sciences so as to create a more knowledgeable workforce. Jane Camerini, John M. MaKenzie, E.P. Thompson, and Katie Whitaker, among others, have all written on the topic. For me, the most convincing and vivid evidence came from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton in which she makes a point of mentioning that the working-class men of Manchester were “warm and devoted followers” of the “more popularly interesting branches of natural history.” They “knew the name and habitat of every plant within a day’s walk from their dwelling.” Her character Job Legh, a self-educated spinner, who has access to the Liverpool docks where sailors would return with exotic specimens, is one of these “warm and devoted followers.”

In some ways, the interest in animal skins strikes me as analogous to the Victorians’ passion for travel writing. What was it about these specimens that was so appealing?

I, myself, travel to exotic places and write accounts of my sometimes disastrous adventures and have found that the wild life of a place is what defines the experience for me. When I was working on Wild Animal Skins, I discovered a similar impulse was at work among the Victorian public, who were fascinated by exotic birds and animals in faraway lands and would go to great lengths to see exhibits of these, to collect them (though I hasten to add I do not own any taxidermy specimens!), and to learn as much as it could about them. As I say in the introduction to my book “skin was not only a basic ingredient of portraiture but also the site of encounter with the exotic world.”

Many people would find a home adorned with animal skins from so-called exotic locales shocking and collecting such specimens is often illegal. Was the collecting of wild animal skins controversial during the Victorian era?

No. Unlike many, perhaps most, people today, the Victorians experienced little sense of guilt in looking at, owning, arranging, and admiring stuffed birds and animals. They rarely, if at all, thought about extinction. Even Darwin shot the last fox on the Galapagos Island. For them the distant world was full of plenty. That is not to say the Victorians were insensitive to the pain inflicted on animals. One has to remember that it is in the Victorian period that the antivivisectionists were active. I am not sure why, but taxidermy is coming back in style. One can go to a booth at a market in London to learn how to remove the skin of a bird or a mouse and stuff it. At a wedding recently I met a person from Brooklyn who practices taxidermy in her apartment. Skin will always elicit pleasure, disgust, and curiosity.

About the Author: Ann C. Colley is a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University College of New York at Buffalo. She has published numerous articles and books, including Victorians in the Mountains, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Colonial Imagination, Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture, The Search for Synthesis in Literature and Art: The Paradox of Space, Edward Lear and the Critics, and Tennyson and Madness.

Art critic Brian Sewell praises Ashgate publications in the London Evening Standard

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Art critic Brian Sewell recently identified a selection of his favourite art books for an article in the London Evening Standard. Among them were two Ashgate publications: The Ashgate Research Companion to Giorgio Vasari, and The Borghese Collections and the Display of Art in the Age of the Grand Tour.

ARC to Giorgio VasariOf the former, Sewell writes that it is “a collection of deeply scholarly essays on a key figure in Renaissance studies and his legacy as art historian, artist and academician – the coal face of art history.” The volume, published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Vasari’s birth, brings together studies of Vasari’s life and works by the world’s foremost experts as well as up-and-coming scholars in order to provide a comprehensive assessment on the current state of Vasari scholarship.

The latter, published in 2008, is praised for discussing “the impact of the most important private collection in Rome in the age of the Grand Tour, in the setting of then contemporary art.” Identified as “essential reading” by caa.reviews and a “meticulous account” by the Times Literary Supplement, the book provides a comprehensive study of the late-eighteenth-century redecoration of the exhibition spaces at the Borghese palace and villa in Rome and the reinstallation of the family’s art collection.The Borghese Collections

Sewell rounds off his account: ‘everyone interested in art scholarship should keep an eye on Ashgate publications.’ Start browsing at www.ashgate.com/art, where you can download our 2015 catalogue, access information on our latest publications, read about the list, and more.

We’re offering blog readers a 25% discount on the two titles name-checked in Sewell’s Evening Standard article. All you have to do is enter the discount code LES2014 at the checkout when ordering on the Ashgate website (expires 31st January 2015).

Book launch at the Frick Collection for British Models of Art Collecting and the American Response

Posted by Luana Life, Marketing Executive

Join Inge Reist, editor of British Models of Art Collecting and the American Response: Reflections Across the Pond for a book launch at The Frick Collection (1 East 70th Street, NYC), Wednesday, December 17 at 4.30pm. She will present a brief overview of the book, and will be joined by Ashgate series editor Michael Yonin, who will discuss The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700–1950.  Signed copies will be available for purchase.

British models of art collecting and the american responseThis collection of fourteen essays by distinguished art and cultural historians examine points of similarity and difference in British and American art collecting. Half the essays examine the trends that dominated the British art collecting scene of the nineteenth century. Others focus on American collectors, using biographical sketches and case studies to demonstrate how collectors in the United States embellished the British model to develop their own, often philanthropic approach to art collecting.

Learn more about British Models of Art Collecting and the American Response

100th volume published in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Marketing Executive

Autobiographical writing by early modern hispanic womenAshgate will publish the one hundredth title in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in January 2015. The series editors, Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger produced their first volume in 2000 (Maternal Measures, Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh). Fifteen years later, we can announce the one hundredth title is Autobiographical Writing by Early Modern Hispanic Women by Elizabeth Teresa Howe. The work focuses on the contributions of women writers to the study of life writing, and offers a symmetrical theme to the initial volume in the series.

We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger, as well as thanking them for their dedication to their role. To view the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in its entirety, and to read an interview with the series editors, please click here.

Forthcoming titles in the series:

 

Between apes and angels, animals and Ashgate: authors to attend animal studies conference at University of Edinburgh

Posted by Ally Berthiaume, Editorial Assistant

Animal Studies is a trending topic in academe with an increased production of literature across the disciplines. Ashgate is positioned within this rising canon, having contributed at least twenty titles to this growing body of animal-studies scholarship. Among these is Ashgate’s newly published collection, Animals and Early Modern Identity, edited by Pia F. Cuneo.Animals and early modern identity

Animals and Early Modern Identity spans the globe, including works from scholars in the United States, Europe and Africa. Apart from the range of the contributors’ geographical locations, there is also great diversity among the animal species appearing within these essays – from horses, dogs, and pigs to rhinoceroses, sea monsters, and other creatures. As Cuneo succinctly puts it in her introduction:

The wide array of disciplines, geographies, and species represented in the volume speaks to the vigor of intellectual inquiry into the subject of animal and nonhuman animal interaction in the early modern period (1400–1700).

Holding it all together, she asserts, is the issue of identity. This collection investigates what kinds of identities were developed by the interaction between human and animal; how these were expressed, for what reason, and with who were they shared. Each essay centers on the ways in which humans use animals to say something about themselves.

The expansion of ‘animal studies’ as a field, and the extent of the range of inquiry contained within it, is evidenced not only by the number and variety of academic publications, but also by a proliferation of conference panels – and sometimes whole conferences –  dedicated to the theme.  The past year or so has seen a number of these, crossing multiple disciplines and time periods, culminating this week with:  Animals and Critical Heritage and Between Apes & Angels: Human and Animal in the Early Modern World.

The latter conference features several contributing authors to Animals and Early Modern Identity as speakers, thus underlining the timeliness and significance of the volume.

Pia F. Cuneo is Professor of Art History at the University of Arizona, USA.  Her current work focuses on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century hippology, and she competes locally in dressage.

To see other Animal Studies titles click here.

The Antonio II Badile Album of Drawings – ‘an exceptionally interesting and meticulous book’

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

The Antonio Il Badile Album of Drawings‘This is an exceptionally interesting and meticulous book, whose supreme merit is to cast light on a hitherto distinctly overlooked but utterly absorbing corner of the admittedly seemingly endless artistic landscape of the Italian Renaissance.’

So writes world-renowned authority on Italian Renaissance painting Professor David Ekserdjian in November’s issue of The Art Newspaper, on Evelyn Karet’s The Antonio II Badile Album of Drawings: The Origins of Collecting Drawings in Early Modern Northern Italy.

The book makes a major contribution to the study of North Italian drawings, a field that has been relatively neglected when compared with Tuscan drawings of the Renaissance. The album in question is the earliest known example of an art collection pasted onto the pages of a book, and Karet traces its long history, from its assemblage in the late 1530s to its dismantling in the 1950s by dealer Francis Matthiesen. Matthiesen photographed the album in its entirety before taking it apart, meaning that Karet is able to discuss what the album originally looked like and draw conclusions about its organisation. The volume is supplemented by appendices providing a reconstruction of the original album and a page-by-page guide to its contents.

Karet uses the album as a new point of reference for the collecting of drawings in northern Italy in the early modern era before Vasari. She discusses the Badile family, the contact between artists and humanists, and the hitherto little-acknowledged role of Verona as an exceptionally early centre of collection in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Evelyn Karet holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University and is a Scholar in Residence in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Clark University, USA where she was previously Associate Professor and taught Renaissance Art History. A scholar of late Gothic and Renaissance art, she has also taught at Boston College, Wheaton College, and the University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program in Italy.