HBA Book Awards

Annually, HBA awards three prizes for books on British art in the following categories: pre-1800, post-1800, and multi-authored book.

To nominate a publication, please contact the committee chair, Douglas Fordham, at Fordham@virginia.edu. Publishers should email Dr. Fordham about nominating books for consideration and about sending books to members of the reading committee. HBA members interested in serving on the reading committee are also invited to contact Douglas.

2016 Awards
for books published in 2015 and announced in January 2017

The Historians of British Art is pleased to announce 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.

415kruzleml-_sx327_bo1204203200_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.

50951770How 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.

9781606064429Lawrence 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.

9780197265840This 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.

2015 Awards
for books published in 2014 and announced in February 2016

The Historians of British Art is pleased to announce 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.

9780300204001In 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.

9780300196979A 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.

9780719084997The 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.

9781472412768Rooted 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.

2014 Awards
for books published in 2013 and announced in February 2015

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1800

Matthew C. Hunter, Wicked Intelligence: Visual Art and the Science of Experiment in Restoration London (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013), 352 pages, ISBN: 978-0226017297, $55.

9780226017297In late seventeenth-century London, the most provocative images were produced not by artists, but by scientists. Magnified fly-eyes drawn with the aid of microscopes, apparitions cast on laboratory walls by projection machines, cut-paper figures revealing the “exact proportions” of sea monsters—all were created by members of the Royal Society of London, the leading institutional platform of the early Scientific Revolution. Wicked Intelligence reveals that these natural philosophers shaped Restoration London’s emergent artistic cultures by forging collaborations with court painters, penning art theory, and designing triumphs of baroque architecture such as St Paul’s Cathedral.

Matthew C. Hunter brings to life this archive of experimental-philosophical visualization and the deft cunning that was required to manage such difficult research. Offering an innovative approach to the scientific image-making of the time, he demonstrates how the Restoration project of synthesizing experimental images into scientific knowledge, as practiced by Royal Society leaders Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren, might be called “wicked intelligence.” Hunter uses episodes involving specific visual practices—for instance, concocting a lethal amalgam of wax, steel, and sulfuric acid to produce an active model of a comet—to explore how Hooke, Wren, and their colleagues devised representational modes that aided their experiments. Ultimately, Hunter argues, the craft and craftiness of experimental visual practice both promoted and menaced the artistic traditions on which they drew, turning the Royal Society projects into objects of suspicion in Enlightenment England.

The first book to use the physical evidence of Royal Society experiments to produce forensic evaluations of how scientific knowledge was generated, Wicked Intelligence rethinks the parameters of visual art, experimental philosophy, and architecture at the cusp of Britain’s imperial power and artistic efflorescence.

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period after 1800

G. A. Bremner, Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire, 1840–1870 (New Haven and London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2013), 364 pages, ISBN: 978-0300187038, $95.

9780300187038The Gothic Revival movement in architecture was intimately entwined with 18th- and 19th-century British cultural politics. By the middle of the 19th century, architects and theorists had transformed the movement into a serious scholarly endeavor, connecting it to notions of propriety and “truth,” particularly in the domain of religious architecture. Simultaneously, reform within the Church of England had worked to widen the aesthetic and liturgical appeal of ‘correct’ gothic forms. Coinciding with these developments, both architectural and religious, was the continued expansion of Britain’s empire, including a renewed urgency by the English Church to extend its mission beyond the British Isles.

In this groundbreaking new study, G. A. Bremner traces the global reach and influence of the Gothic Revival throughout Britain’s empire during these crucial decades. Focusing on religious buildings, he examines the reinvigoration of the Church of England’s colonial and missionary agenda and its relationship to the rise of Anglican ecclesiology, revealing the extraordinary nature and extent of building activity that occurred across the British world.

HBA Book Award for an Exemplary Multi-authored Book

Susan Weber, ed., William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Bard Graduate Center, New York, 2013), 704 pages, ISBN: 978-0300196184, $85.

9780300196184The most versatile British designer of the 18th century, William Kent (1685–1748) created a style for a new nation and monarchy. The scope of his achievements encompasses architecture, palatial interiors, elaborate gardens, and exquisite furniture. Among his creative innovations are bold combinations of elements from Palladian, rococo, and gothic design, anticipating the intermingling of architectural styles we see today. William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain is the first comprehensive exploration of this important designer and his extraordinary creations.

An international team of the foremost experts in the field examines the entire spectrum of Kent’s oeuvre, including the interiors at Kensington Palace and Houghton Hall. Essays illuminate issues about the authorship of Kent’s furniture and metalwork, situate his contributions in relation to architectural discourse, and classify the characteristics of his designs. Copiously illustrated, including many stunning new photographs, this handsome volume celebrates the work and career of one of the most influential figures in the history of architecture and design.