HBA Book Awards 2018

The Historians of British Artist Book Prize Committee is pleased to announce the 2018 Book Award winners for publications from 2016. The winners were chosen from a nominating list of over one hundred books from more than thirty different presses. Awards are granted in three different categories.

The award for a single-authored book with a subject before 1800 goes to Marcia Kupfer for Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300.

Two books share the award for a single-authored book with a subject after 1800: Lucy Curzon’s Mass-Observation and Visual Culture: Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain and Catherine Roach’s Pictures-within-Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Britain.

The multi-author prize goes to Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting, edited by Eleanor Hughes.

HBA would like to offer congratulations to the winning authors and the publishing teams at Routledge and Yale University Press.

This year’s committee of readers consisted of Morna O’Neill, Matthew Reeve, Stacey Sloboda, and Eric Stryker.

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

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1800

Marcia Kupfer, Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300 (New Haven: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-0300220339, $85.

A single, monumental mappa mundi (world map), made around 1300 for Hereford Cathedral, survives intact from the Middle Ages. As Marcia Kupfer reveals in her arresting new study, this celebrated testament to medieval learning has long been profoundly misunderstood. Features of the colored and gilded map that baffle modern expectations are typically dismissed as the product of careless execution. Kupfer argues that they should rightly be seen as part of the map’s encoded commentary on the nature of vision itself. Optical conceits and perspectival games formed part of the map’s language of vision, were central to its commission, and shaped its display, formal design, and allegorical fabric. These discoveries compel a sweeping revision of the artwork’s intellectual and art-historical genealogy, as well as its function and aesthetic significance, shedding new light on the impact of scientific discourses in late medieval art.

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period after 1800

Lucy Curzon, Mass-Observation and Visual Culture: Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain (New York: Routledge, 2016), 182 pages, ISBN: 9781472436504, $150.

Mass-Observation and Visual Culture: Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain critically analyses the role that visual culture played in the early development of Mass-Observation, the innovative British anthropological research group founded in 1937. The group’s production and use of painting, collage, photography, and other media illustrates not only the broad scope of Mass-Observation’s efforts to document everyday life, but also, more specifically, the centrality of visual elements to its efforts at understanding national identity in the 1930s. Although much interest has previously focused on Mass-Observation’s use of written reports and opinion surveys, as well as diaries that were kept by hundreds of volunteer observers, this book is the first full-length study of the group’s engagement with visual culture. Exploring the paintings of Graham Bell and William Coldstream; the photographs of Humphrey Spender; the paintings, collages, and photographs of Julian Trevelyan; and Humphrey Spender’s photographs and widely recognized ‘Mass-Observation film’, Spare Time, among other sources, Mass-Observation and Visual Culture: Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain positions these works as key sources of information with regard to illuminating the complex character of British identity during the Depression era.

Catherine Roach, Pictures-within-Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Britain (New York Routledge, 2016), 218 pages, ISBN: 9781472454690, $150.

Repainting the work of another into one’s own canvas is a deliberate and often highly fraught act of reuse. This book examines the creation, display, and reception of such images. Artists working in nineteenth-century London were in a peculiar position: based in an imperial metropole, yet undervalued by their competitors in continental Europe. Many claimed that Britain had yet to produce a viable national school of art. Using pictures-within-pictures, British painters challenged these claims and asserted their role in an ongoing visual tradition. By transforming pre-existing works of art, they also asserted their own painterly abilities. Recognizing these statements provided viewers with pleasure, in the form of a witty visual puzzle solved, and with prestige, in the form of cultural knowledge demonstrated. At stake for both artist and audience in such exchanges was status: the status of the painter relative to other artists, and the status of the viewer relative to other audience members. By considering these issues, this book demonstrates a new approach to images of historic displays. Through examinations of works by J.M.W. Turner, John Everett Millais, John Scarlett Davis, Emma Brownlow King, and William Powell Frith, this book reveals how these small passages of paint conveyed both personal and national meanings.

HBA Book Award for an Exemplary Multi-authored Book

Eleanor Hughes, ed., with contributions by Eleanor Hughes, Richard Johns, Sophie Lynford, John McAleer, Christine Riding, Catherine Roach, Geoff Quilley, and Pieter van der Merwe, Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 312 pages, ISBN: 9780300221572, $75.

Spreading Canvas takes a close look at the tradition of marine painting that flourished in 18th-century Britain. Drawing primarily on the extensive collections of the Yale Center for British Art and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, this publication shows how the genre corresponded with Britain’s growing imperial power and celebrated its increasing military presence on the seas, representing the subject matter in a way that was both documentary and sublime. Works by leading purveyors of the style, including Peter Monamy, Samuel Scott, Dominic Serres, and Nicholas Pocock, are featured alongside sketches, letters, and other ephemera that help frame the political and geographic significance of these inspiring views, while also establishing the painters’ relationships to concurrent metropolitan art cultures. This survey, featuring a wealth of beautifully reproduced images, demonstrates marine painting’s overarching relevance to British culture of the era.

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