History Today: Artists and Their Times

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Thursdays, November 8, 15, 22, 29 | 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM (tea and coffee from 10:30; lectures begin at 11)
£8 | £6 concessions
Queen's House
Queen's House

Join us for our November Queen's House Lecture Series on the subject of history paintings, past and present. 

The term ‘history painting’ was introduced in the seventeenth century to describe paintings with subject matter drawn from classical history and mythology, and the Bible. From the eighteenth century, it was also used to refer to more recent historical subjects and events. To celebrate 250 years of the Royal Academy, we are focusing this November on how British artists have approached contemporary history in their work, often making references to the Old Master tradition to add power and meaning. Speakers will consider a wide range of subjects, artists, and locations. Talks will also bring the story up to the present day by looking at works such as Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle (2012) and Kehinde Wiley’s Ship of Fools (2017).

Please note that while lectures begin at 11 AM, tea and coffee will be served from 10:30 AM. Lectures last forty-five minutes to an hour, with time for questions at the end. 

8 November

New Canons from Old: Kehinde Wiley’s Ship of Fools and Marine Painting

Zoe Mercer-Golden, Assistant Curator, Royal Museums Greenwich

This lecture will use Kehinde Wiley’s contemporary allegory Ship of Fools as a starting point to examine the significance and function of marine painting in British and European history. Wiley’s painting, which uses the symbol of a ‘ship of fools’ to suggest the histories of colonialism, forced migration and slavery that often underpinned the genre of marine painting, also suggests the ways in which these histories have shaped contemporary migration patterns. By considering Wiley’s painting in the context of these historical works, this lecture will suggest the value of trans-historical art histories, particularly in the context of the Queen’s House which was owned by a family who profited from the slave trade.

15 November

The Suffering Soldier: Depictions of Courage in Eighteenth-Century British Art

Dr Mark Hallett, Paul Mellon Centre

This lecture will focus on a few especially powerful examples of eighteenth-century British art to explore the ways in which artists dealt with, and depicted, the subject of courage. Mark Hallett, a leading authority on art in the Georgian period, will concentrate in particular on images of the heroic, tragic and pitiful soldier, produced by artists as varied as John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West and Joseph Wright of Derby. Doing so will reveal the very different ways in which courage could be conceptualised and represented during a century in which Britain was regularly at war.

22 November

Crossing boundaries: spectacle, paint and print in late Georgian London

Dr Pieter van der Merwe, Greenwich Curator Emeritus, Royal Museums Greenwich

The rapid expansion of industrial cities in the early 19th century fuelled demand for popular entertainment that was, above all, visual. This talk will look at some of the connections between London stage and panoramic entertainment, painting and pictorial print media, mainly in the 1820s and ‘30s, and  some of the significant figures involved.

29 November

Depictions of War in the Twentieth Century: Paul Nash

Dr David Boyd Haycock, Independent Art Historian, Curator and Lecturer

Paul Nash was one of the most important British artists of the first half of the twentieth century, one who successfully united the romantic tradition embodied by English artists such as William Blake, Samuel Palmer and Dante Gabriel Rossetti with modern European movements such as Futurism, Surrealism and Abstraction. In this lecture Dr Haycock will explore how Nash used a variety of sources – including his interest in British art history and literature, his love of the English landscape and his artistic training and experiences as a junior infantry officer on the Western Front – to produce some of the greatest paintings of both the First and Second World Wars.