The Historians of British Art is pleased to announce the 2016 Book Award winners for publications from 2014. The winners were chosen from a nominating list of over eighty books from more than twenty different presses. Awards are granted in three different categories, and this year two books share the award for single-author books dealing with a subject before 1800. Paul Binski’s Gothic Wonders: Art, Artifice, and the Decorated Style, 1290–1350 sets a major and understudied episode in medieval art in conversation with its Continental neighbors, dramatically enlivening both in the process. Mark Hallett’s Reynolds: Portraiture in Action breathes new life into one of Britain’s most thoroughly studied portraitists by tracing his work from studio conception to exhibition and beyond. John Potvin is the winner of the post-1800 single-author category for Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain, a book that expands the scope of interior design and the insights that it can yield for British modern culture. Finally, British Art in the Nuclear Age, edited by Catherine Jolivette, is the winner of the multi-author category. Drawing on a wide array of artists and materials, this volume offers a subtle and surprising take on Britain’s cultural position during, and in relation to, the Cold War.
HBA would like to offer congratulations to the winning authors and the publishing teams at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Studies and Yale Press, Manchester University Press, and Ashgate Publishing.
HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1800
Paul Binski, Gothic Wonder: Art, Artifice, and the Decorated Style, 1290–1350, (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2014), 452 pages, ISBN: 978-0300204001, $75 / £40.
In this wide-ranging, eloquent book, Paul Binski sheds new light on one of the greatest periods of English art and architecture, offering ground-breaking arguments about the role of invention and the powers of Gothic art. His richly documented study locates what became known as the Decorated Style within patterns of commissioning, designing, and imagining whose origins lay in pre-Gothic art. By examining notions of what was extraordinary, re-evaluating medieval ideas of authorship, and restoring economic considerations to the debate, Binski sets English visual art of the early 14th century in a broad European context and also within the aesthetic discourses of the medieval period. The author, stressing the continuum between art and architecture, challenges understandings about agency, modernity, hierarchy, and marginality. His book makes a powerful case for the restoration of the category of the aesthetic to the understanding of medieval art. Generously illustrated with hundreds of images, Gothic Wonder traces the impact of English art in Continental Europe, ending with the Black Death and the literary uses of the architectural in works by Geoffrey Chaucer and other writers.
Mark Hallett, Reynolds: Portraiture in Action (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2014), 488 pages, ISBN: 978-0300196979, $75 / £50.
A deeply researched and elegantly written study on Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792)—Georgian England’s most celebrated portraitist and the first president of the British Royal Academy of Arts—this lavishly illustrated volume explores all aspects of Reynolds’s portraiture. Mark Hallett provides detailed, compelling readings of Reynolds’s most celebrated and striking works, investigating the ways in which they were appreciated and understood in his own lifetime. Recovering the artist’s dynamic interaction with his sitters and patrons, and revealing the dramatic impact of his portraits within the burgeoning exhibition culture of late-18th-century London, Hallett also unearths the intimate relationship between Reynolds’s paintings and graphic art. Reynolds: Portraiture in Action offers a new understanding of the artist’s career within the extremely competitive London art world and takes readers into the engrossing debates and controversies that captivated the city and its artists.
HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period after 1800
John Potvin, Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern interior in Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), 336 pages, ISBN: 978-0719084997, $110 / £75.
The bachelor has long held an ambivalent, uncomfortable and even at times unfriendly position in society. This book considers the complicated relationships between the modern queer bachelor and interior design, material culture and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957. The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor (queerness, idolatry, askesis, decadence, decoration, glamour and artifice) comprise a contested site and reveal in their respective ways the distinctly queer twinning of shame and resistance. It pays close attention to the interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton. Richly illustrated and written in a lively manner, Bachelors of a Different Sort is at once theoretically ambitious and rich in its use of archival and historical sources.
HBA Book Award for an Exemplary Multi-authored Book
Catherine Jolivette, ed., British Art in the Nuclear Age (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2014), 306 pages, ISBN: 978-1472412768, $120.
Rooted in the study of objects, British Art in the Nuclear Age addresses the role of art and visual culture in discourses surrounding nuclear science and technology, atomic power, and nuclear warfare in Cold War Britain. Examining both the fears and hopes for the future that attended the advances of the nuclear age, nine original essays explore the contributions of British-born and émigré artists in the areas of sculpture, textile and applied design, painting, drawing, photo-journalism, and exhibition display. Artists discussed include: Francis Bacon, John Bratby, Lynn Chadwick, Prunella Clough, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Laszlo Peri, Isabel Rawsthorne, Alan Reynolds, Colin Self, Graham Sutherland, Feliks Topolski and John Tunnard. Also under discussion is new archival material from Picture Post magazine, and the Festival of Britain.
Far from insular in its concerns, this volume draws upon cross-cultural dialogues between British and European artists and the relationship between Britain and America to engage with an interdisciplinary art history that will also prove useful to students and researchers in a variety of fields including modern European history, political science, the history of design, anthropology, and media studies.