Conference in celebration of Professor David H. Solkin

Making Britain Modern

This conference will celebrate the scholarship of Professor David H. Solkin and his outstanding contribution to the study of British art. Convening a younger generation of academics and curators whose work has been marked by David Solkin’s teaching and writing, the day will encapsulate the diverse ways in which his call for a trenchant social history of eighteenth-century British art has been answered.

The title Making Britain Modern alludes to David Solkin’s profound and wide-ranging engagement with the years between the Glorious Revolution and the death of George IV, a period in which the nation’s visual culture was transformed by broader ‘modernising’ processes of commercialisation, industrialisation and overseas expansion. Through extensive original research, acute dialectic analysis and incisive argumentation, Solkin’s historiography has advocated enquiry that is sensitive to the impact of broader social and political change on the era’s artists and artworks, and its public and commercial institutions. Thanks to an important corpus of monographs, essays, and ground-breaking exhibition catalogues, David Solkin has taught a whole generation of researchers how rigorous scholarship can be used to conjure a vivid impression of this transformational moment in British art and to restore the social significance of forgotten paintings, revising the standard account of such eminences as Richard Wilson, Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth, Joseph Wright of Derby, and J.M.W. Turner in the process.

Making Britain Modern will offer a series of presentations on subjects and questions that are also themes current in David’s work. Dian Kriz takes up the issue of the portrayal of heroic masculinity as repurposed for contemporary colonial Jamaica. Violence is also a theme for Meredith Gamer and Joseph Monteyne, as spectacle of execution in the case of the former and as Gillray’s practice of etching in the case of the latter. In counterpoint, Matthew Hargraves considers narratives of modern sentiment in religious painting, while John Chu explores Constable’s sketches of the polite and leisured in commercial society. Questions of invention and experimentation in the context of industrialisation are raised by Richard Johns through a consideration of Wedgwood’s jasperware. Finally, Kate Grandjouan broaches the remaking of national identity in the context of British ascendency in Europe. The programme will open with a conversation between Martin Myrone and David Solkin, which explores the themes of his writing and the range of his contribution. A pop-up exhibition of works in the Courtauld Gallery, curated by Mark Hallett, will provide an opportunity to inspect important examples of the kinds of British drawings, watercolours, and prints which have been subjects of David Solkin’s research and teaching, but also allude to his long-standing activities as a collector. Sarah Monks will offer a summation of the day and consider what it conveys about his on-going impact to British art studies.

This conference is generously supported by the Richard McDougall Fund, established to support the understanding of British watercolour painting from 1750 to the present.


The Exhibition Stare-Case, Somerset House, Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) Watercolor and pen and ink on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper, ca. 1800 © Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

09.00 – 09.25 Registration

09.25 – 09.30 Welcome – Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

09.30 – 10.00 Martin Myrone (Tate Britain) in conversation with David Solkin

10.00 – 10.30 Meredith Gamer (Columbia University): The ‘Fine Art’ of Execution in Eighteenth-Century Britain

10.30 – 11.00 Kate Grandjouan (independent scholar): French Disruption: Alterity and the Satirical Print

11.00 – 11.30 Tea / coffee break (provided for everyone)

11.30 – 12.00 Matthew Hargraves (Yale Center for British Art): Devotions in Doncaster: Francis Hayman’s Good Samaritan

12.00 – 12.30 Richard Johns (University of York): The Trials of Josiah Wedgwood

12.30 – 13.00 Discussion and questions

13.00 – 15.00 Lunch (provided for the speakers/chairs only) and pop-up exhibition in Prints and Drawings Room at The Courtauld Gallery curated by Mark Hallett (all attendees welcome)

15.00– 15.30 Joseph Monteyne (University of British Columbia): The Eye Under Attack: James Gillray’s Violent Ground of the Image

15.30 – 16.00 Dian Kriz (Brown University): A Military Artist Takes on the Indies: Abraham James and the Colonial Display of Martial Masculinity

16.00 – 16.30 Discussion and questions

16.30 – 17.00 Tea / coffee break (provided for everyone)

17.00 – 17.30 John Chu (National Trust; The Courtauld Institute of Art): Drawn Indoors: John Constable’s Idle Works

17.30 – 18.00 Sarah Monks (University of East Anglia) – Summation and Discussion

18.00 Reception

This event has passed.

9:30am, 2 Jul 2016