The 105th annual conference of the College Art Association takes place in New York, 15–18 February 2017, at the New York Hilton Midtown (1335 Avenue of the Americas). HBA will be represented with two panels (the second of which will include a brief business meeting) and an off-site visit (details coming soon). And for anyone put off by the exorbitant registration fee (which can run as high as $495), bear in mind that there are other options ($20 per single time-slot session).
Conflict as Cultural Catalyst in Britain
Wednesday, 15 February 2017, 1:30–3:00, Clinton Suite, 2nd Floor
Chair: Michael J. K. Walsh (Nanyang Technological University)
Frances Spalding (The Burlington Magazine), The Spanish Civil War, Three Guineas, and the Arrival of Guernica in Britain
Rachel Warriner (National College of Art and Design, Dublin), Feminism in a Context of Conflict: The Orchard Gallery and Nancy Spero’s Notes in Time on Women
Jonathan Black (Kingston University London), ‘We Are All Engaged in the Battle of Life’: Imperialism, Social Darwinism, and Visualisations of Conflict in the First World War Memorial Sculpture of Eric Kennington (1888–1960) and Charles Sergeant Jagger (1885–1934)
Jiyi Ryu (University of York), Within, Within, Within: The Principle of Visualising the British Imperial World
Discussants: Holly Schaffer (Dartmouth College), Joan DelPlato (Bard College at Simon’s Rock), and John Klein (Washington University St. Louis)
Co-Producing and Re-visioning British Art Abroad
Thursday, 16 February 2017, 3:30–5:00, Gramercy B/East, 2nd Floor
Chair: Julie Codell (Arizona State University)
This session will focus on art collecting of British outside Britain. The study of art collecting has blossomed; studies of agents, dealers, collectors, and auctions are subjects of recent conferences (three in London in 2016 alone) and publications. Art collecting, both as a form of reception and as a form of art production (e.g., theories of Walter Benjamin, Pierre Bourdieu, museology studies), created new contexts, meanings, audiences, and interpretations for art. While collecting usually intervenes into aesthetic, national, economic, hermeneutic, and social valuations of art, this was even more dramatic and transformative when collectors of British art lived outside Britain.
Kathleen Stuart (Denver Art Museum), “The Berger Collection at the Denver Art Museum: British Art in the Rocky Mountain West”
In a few short years in the mid-1990s, the late William M. B. Berger and his wife Bernadette Johnson Berger of Denver formed a museum-worthy collection of British art numbering several hundred works that spanned six centuries, from the late Middle Ages to the twentieth century. They then placed the collection on long-term loan at the Denver Art Museum, dramatically increasing the museum’s modest holdings of British art. This paper will explore the Berger Collection’s impact on the Denver Art Museum, from in-house cross-departmental programming
to involvement with other institutions, and from relations with individual visitors to the direction of object research. It will also profile the founders of the collection, passionate believers in the power of art to educate, whose efforts in forming the collection constituted the most public and ambitious attempt to assemble a private art collection in a quarter of a century. The paper will examine key acquisitions as exemplifying the Bergers’ collecting philosophy and describe their learning curve as they developed connoisseurship skills.
Elizabeth A. Pergam (Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York), “The British Model of Collecting: Importing British Art to America”
Although the importation of British art, especially portraits, during the Gilded Age has been studied and analyzed extensively (see, for example, This Other Eden), the transatlantic art trade at this period consisted of a great deal more than works by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, or George Romney. In fact, the connoisseur-scholar Bernard Berenson has been quoted: “It is much easier to sell a second-rate picture that has belonged to any English nobleman than a first-rate one that has belonged to a great name in the Italian nobility” (Behrman, Duveen, p. 57). British art, then, was not solely defined as the work of artists born on the “scepter’d isle.” Rather, at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 (officially titled ‘The Art Wealth of the United Kingdom’) so spectacularly demonstrated, British art was understood as those objects acquired, rescued and treasured by generations of Grand Tourists (noble and royal), as well as the newly-rich industrialists (often, though not exclusively from the north of England), who tended to collect the work of ‘native’ artists. Building upon my previous work on the Art Treasures Exhibition and its impact on American patterns of collecting, this paper will examine how the relationship between American and British collectors was constructed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the consequences of that perception on both sides of the Atlantic.
Andrew Stephenson (University of East London), “‘A Thing That Racially Belongs to Us More Than Any of the Latin Styles’: Collecting and Displaying English Art in Private Collections in the United States, c.1890–1926.”
My paper analyses the cultural politics of collecting and displaying British painting and sculpture in private collections in the United States in the period from 1890 until 1926. It examines how such refined art patronage could generate a sense amongst an American urban elite of Anglophile cultural connectivity allied to particular sets of imagined, often idealized, Anglo-American values of shared artistic and aesthetic taste. Redefining earlier notions of Anglophilia and frequently set within a complex relationship to more assertively Welsh, Celtic, Scottish, Irish, Anglo-Irish, and Anglo-Jewish cultures, such forms of art patronage and collecting shaped and reflected the changing cultural allegiances of these rich Anglo-American buyers of the Gilded Age.
Through a close study of key art collections in the United States, my paper will argue that a modern Americanised-Anglophile syntax developed for the display of English art in private collections in America in this period that was later transplanted into period room museum displays and became a feature of certain Anglo-American house-museums. This presentation depended for its effect not only in replicating British architectural styles in the features of the houses themselves, often Gothic revival, Arts and Crafts, Adam or Neo-Georgian styles, but it also registered in the preferred interior design of the domestic interiors in which such artworks were displayed. Integrated within an updated trans-Atlantic eclecticism, English art hung alongside Dutch, notably Hague School, genre scenes and landscapes and French Barbizon landscape paintings, though not recent work by French Impressionist or post-Impressionist artists, and amidst French decorative furnishings. Moreover, as aristocratic British art collections were dispersed to the United States on a scale never seen before and as historic British interiors from country houses were shipped across the Atlantic in vast quantities, the considered arrangement of the art collection in such aristocratic interiors played a crucial aspect in promoting and reinforcing a sense of this imagined and racially aligned trans-Atlantic community. What resonated most forcefully by the presence of English art now relocated as part of an eclectic taste within sumptuous historic interiors in the American private art collection was a thoroughly modern assertion of an updated and distinctively Anglo-American cultural affiliation.
Nancy Scott (Brandeis University), “Paintings Across the Pond: Anchoring J. M. W. Turner in American Collections”
J.M.W. Turner’s work first sparked widespread public notice in America when John Taylor Johnston placed the newly arrived The Slave Ship in the 1872 in New York at the Metropolitan Museum, and critical discourse continued as it went on display in Boston in 1877 at the newly opened Museum of Fine Arts. The history of collecting Turner’s oils, watercolors, and engravings (including illustrated volumes) forms a chain of source material worth examining in connection with key moments that challenged and invigorated American artists and museum culture.
This paper considers three types of Turner collectors in America who sought British art from the Gilded Age to the mid-twentieth century and highlights a range of historical moments. Each inscribes a definite shift in the formation of a museum’s future reputation and presentation of British art to the public.