"The Times are Auspicious," British Art and the French Revolution (seminar)

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This was a late-spring 2001 seminar

"Be encouraged, all ye friends of freedom, and writers in its defence! The times are auspicious." In November 1789, in his address commemorating the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Richard Price spoke for many when he saw in recent events in France the dawning of a new age. Within three years, for those who had welcomed the revolution and pressed for change, this vision had been displaced by fear of anonymous accusation, indictment, and imprisonment. British artists, as well as writers, became engaged in a heated ideological battle that was waged in books, pamphlets, newspapers and speeches, and in the prints of the political caricaturists. Artists developed new ways in which to capture their sense of the unprecedented changes taking place across the Channel. Old artistic forms and old patterns of patronage and display were found wanting. The seminar studied high art and low, the public and private sphere, and work that celebrated rebellion as well as work that encouraged reactionary hysteria. Developments in England were also compared to those in France, particularly in the work of Jacques Louis David. Seminar participants considered paintings, prints, and the personal sketchbook, including works by James Barry and William Blake, George Romney and Johan Zoffany, Richard Newton and James Gillray, and, where appropriate, their publishers and audience during an era of infamous government suppression. Participants visited major archives of original works in Washington, including the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art in addition to the Folger, and they will consult with the conservation departments at the Folger and the National Gallery to understand better how the means of production played a role in cultural change.

Directors: Michael Phillips is Reader at the University of York, where he teaches at the interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. He is guest curator of the major Blake exhibition at the Tate Gallery, opening November 2000. Author of numerous publications on Blake, his William Blake: The Creation of the Songs from Manuscript to Illuminated Printing is forthcoming in October 2000. He is currently writing a biography of Blake in Lambeth during the anti-Jacobin Terror.

William L. Pressly is a Professor of Art History at the University of Maryland at College Park. He is the author The French Revolution as Blasphemy: Johan Zoffany's Paintings of the Massacre at Paris, August 10, 1792 (1999) and two books on James Barry, The Life and Art of James Barry (1981) and James Barry: the Artist as Hero (1983). He also compiled the critical Catalogue of Paintings in the Folger Library: "As Imagination Bodies Forth" (1993).