HBA Book Awards 2017

The Historians of British Art is pleased to announce the 2017 Book Award winners for publications from 2015. The winners were chosen from a nominating list of over eighty books from more than thirty different presses. Awards are granted in three different categories.

The award for a single-authored book dealing with a subject before 1800 goes to Margaret Aston for Broken Idols of the English Reformation. Completed shortly before Aston’s death, this monumental publication combines case studies with a deeply synthetic grasp of the social, cultural, and intellectual roots of English iconoclasm.

Jordan Bear is the winner of the post-1800 single author category for Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject. If you are under the impression that nineteenth-century viewers were in thrall to photographic realism, then prepare to be disillusioned as Bear recovers Victorian skepticism and criticality in the reception of early photographic media.

In the contest between word and image, the committee declared a tie, awarding the multi-author prize to two edited volumes. Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator recovers a major critical voice from the second half of the twentieth century, and Painting in Britain, 1500–1630: Production, Influences, and Patronage, brought the skills of art historians and conservators into vivid and productive dialogue in this beautifully illustrated volume.

HBA would like to offer congratulations to the winning authors and the publishing teams at Cambridge University Press, Penn State University Press, Getty Research Institute, and Oxford University Press.

This year’s committee of readers consisted of Douglas Fordham, Morna O’Neil, Eric Stryker, and Matthew Reeve.

A press release (as a Word document) is available here»

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1800

Margaret Aston, Broken Idols of the English Reformation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 1128 pages, ISBN: 978  05217  70187, $200.


Why were so many religious images and objects broken and damaged in the course of the Reformation? Margaret Aston’s magisterial new book charts the conflicting imperatives of destruction and rebuilding throughout the English Reformation from the desecration of images, rails and screens to bells, organs and stained glass windows. She explores the motivations of those who smashed images of the crucifixion in stained glass windows and who pulled down crosses and defaced symbols of the Trinity. She shows that destruction was part of a methodology of religious revolution designed to change people as well as places and to forge in the long term new generations of new believers. Beyond blanked walls and whited windows were beliefs and minds impregnated by new modes of religious learning. Idol-breaking with its emphasis on the treacheries of images fundamentally transformed not only Anglican ways of worship but also of seeing, hearing and remembering.

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period after 1800

Jordan Bear, Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015), 216 pages, ISBN: 978  02710  65014, $75.


How do photographs compel belief and endow knowledge? To understand the impact of photography in a given era, we must study the adjacent forms of visual persuasion with which photographs compete and collaborate. In photography’s early days, magic shows, scientific demonstrations, and philosophical games repeatedly put the visual credulity of the modern public to the test in ways that shaped, and were shaped by, the reality claims of photography. These venues invited viewers to judge the reliability of their own visual experiences. Photography resided at the center of a constellation of places and practices in which the task of visual discernment—of telling the real from the constructed—became an increasingly crucial element of one’s location in cultural, political, and social relations. In Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject, Jordan Bear tells the story of how photographic trickery in the 1850s and 1860s participated in the fashioning of the modern subject. By locating specific mechanisms of photographic deception employed by the leading mid-century photographers within this capacious culture of discernment, Disillusioned integrates some of the most striking—and puzzling—images of the Victorian period into a new and expansive interpretive framework.

HBA Book Award for an Exemplary Multi-authored Book

Lucy Bradnock, Courtney J. Martin, and Rebecca Peabody, eds., Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015), 224 pages, ISBN 978  16060  64429, $40.


Lawrence Alloway (1926–1990) was a key figure in the development of modern art in Europe and America from the 1950s to the 1980s. He is credited with coining the term pop art and with championing conceptual art and feminist artists in America. His interests as a critic and as a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York were wide-ranging, however, and included architecture, design, earthworks, film, neorealism, science fiction, and public sculpture. Early in his career he was associated with the Independent Group in London and although he was largely self-taught, he was a noted educator and lecturer. A prolific writer, Alloway sought to escape the conventions of art-historical discourse. This volume illuminates how he often shaped the field and anticipated approaches such as social art history and visual and cultural studies.

Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator provides the first critical analysis of the multiple facets of Alloway’s life and career, exploring his formative influence on the disciplines of art history, art criticism, and museum studies. The nine essays in this volume depend on primary archival research, much of it conducted in the Lawrence Alloway Papers held by the Getty Research Institute. Each author addresses a distinct aspect of Alloway’s eclectic professional interests and endeavors.

Tarnya Cooper, Aviva Burnstock, Maurice Howard, and Edward Town, eds., Painting in Britain, 1500–1630: Production, Influences, and Patronage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 400 pages, ISBN: 978  019726  5840, $250.


This book is the first major essay volume in over a decade to focus on Tudor and Jacobean painting. Its interdisciplinary approach reflects the dynamic state of research in the field, utilising a range of methodologies in order to answer key art historical questions about the production and consumption of art in Britain in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century. The introduction sets the tone for the interdisciplinary approach that is taken throughout the volume. It brings together a discussion of the context for the production of painted images in Tudor and Jacobean England with a selection of technical images of twenty paintings that span the period and demonstrate the information that can be gained from material analysis of paintings. In further chapters, leading exponents of painting conservation and conservation science discuss the material practices of the period, using and explaining a range of analytical techniques, such as infrared reflectography and dendochronology. Questions of authorship and aspects of workshop practice are also discussed. As well as looking at specific artists and their studios, the authors take a broader view in order to capture information about the range of artistic production during the period, stretching from the production of medieval rood screens to the position of heraldic painters. The final section of the book addresses artistic patronage, from the commissioning of works by kings and courtiers, to the regional networks that developed during the period and the influence of a developing antiquarianism on the market for paintings. The book is lavishly illustrated in colour throughout, with reproductions of whole paintings and many details selected to amplify the text. It will be an essential source for those working in the fields of art history, conservation and material science, and of interest to lovers of British Tudor and Stuart painting.

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