Circum-Atlantic Visual Culture, c. 1770-1830 - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Circum-Atlantic Visual Culture, c. 1770-1830

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MA Special Option

Circum-Atlantic Visual Culture, c. 1770-1830


Mr and Mrs Andrews Without Their Heads, 1998, Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Private Collection, London.

Dr Esther Chadwick

This MA considers an oceanic space—the Atlantic—and the images that were produced within it during the long eighteenth century. It explores an art history of the circum-Atlantic world, defined by the movements, confrontations and entanglements of African, European and American people and cultures in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Three historical moments of revolution or rupture punctuate the course: the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783); the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804); and the British Emancipation Act (1833). We will concentrate on three areas in particular: artworks and artists that crossed the Atlantic, particularly between North America, Britain, and the Caribbean; art made in mainland Britain that responded to Atlantic developments; and art produced in the Caribbean—including newly emergent African Diasporic art forms. We will also examine the legacy of these histories in the work of contemporary British artists. What role did visual images, material objects, and cultural practices play in constituting or resisting imperial power? How do notions of ‘British’ art change when viewed in Atlantic perspective? And what is the significance of this history for debates about decolonising cultural institutions in the twenty-first century?

Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

Esther Chadwick is a specialist in eighteenth-century British art, with a focus on printmaking. She studied Art History at the University of Cambridge and completed her doctorate at Yale University in 2016. She has held fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre in London, the Huntington Library, California, the Lewis Walpole Library, Connecticut, and in 2013-2016 was Paul Mellon Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Washington D.C. Before joining the Courtauld, she was a curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum.

Esther’s research addresses questions of mediation, transmission and translation of visual information, the materiality of printed images, the visual culture of transatlantic slavery and revolution, and the construction of race. She is interested in the global contexts of British art. In 2014, she co-curated Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. At the British Museum in 2018, she curated A revolutionary legacy: Haiti and Toussaint Louverture. Esther is currently working on a book that examines the formative role of printmaking in the work of British artists, entitled The Radical Print: Art and Politics in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain.

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