The third ‘Romantic Illustration Network’ symposium took place on Friday 27th February at the Tate Britain. Podcasts of the talks will be available on the website next week.
This symposium brought together the authors of the key scholarship on the literary galleries of the Romantic period: Fred Burwick (The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, 1996), Rosie Dias (Exhibiting Englishness, 2013), Ian Haywood (Romanticism and Caricature, 2013), Luisa Calé (‘Blake and the Literary Galleries’, 2008; Fuseli’s Milton Gallery 2006) and Martin Myrone (Gothic Nightmares, 2006; John Martin: Apocalypse, 2011) in a venue that is itself a form of literary gallery (Tate Britain) to present new research and to debate the relationship of painting to illustration, text, and print. To what extent did the literary galleries change the role of illustration in the Romantic period?
Martin Myrone, Lead Curator in Pre-1800 British Art, welcomed everyone to the Tate, before we heard from our first speakers: Rosie Dias and Ian Haywood. Dias showed us how the location of Josiah Boydell’s shop on Cheapside and Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall fitted in to the cultural geography of 18th century London. She drew upon Luisa Calé’s work to demonstrate that at the Shakespeare gallery the textual and the visual – the catalogue of Shakespeare extracts and the paintings themselves – were presented as autonomous realms that could be separated or united at will, and that attendees could choose by their physical actions to be either readers or spectators.
Ian Haywood gave a paper on Macklin’s shop the Poets’ Gallery and his exhibition and publication Gallery of British Poets. He presented a subversive close reading of the text and images published in 1794 in the fourth issue, at the height of the Terror in Paris. Luisa Calé gave a fascinating analysis of Maria Cosway’s ‘The Hours’ (the lead image on the RIN blog).
After lunch all together in the Tate café, Fred Burwick gave a paper on tableaux vivants, which argued that the stage was a kind of literary gallery in the early nineteenth-century, as artists and dramatists recreated famous paintings on stage, and in some instances turned narrative paintings into plays.
We were then treated to guided tours of the Print Room and the Galleries by Assistant Curators Désirée de Chair and Clare Barlow. We looked at prints by Blake and Fuseli, as well as illustrated pages from Bell’s British Poets and a print of Barry’s ‘Lear and Cordelia’. In the galleries, we heard about Fuseli’s ‘Lady Macbeth seizing the daggers’, as well as looking closely at Barry’s enormous finished oil painting of Lear and the dead Cordelia.
After the presentation of the Bibliographical Society Studentship to Naomi Billingsley (Manchester) for her project on Blake and religious art, Martin Myrone spoke about gaps, misapprehensions, and questions of scale and authority in relation to the study of relationships between text and images, and between disciplines (such as literature, art history, book history, visual culture studies, theatre studies, etc). We rounded off the day with a discussion about the relationship between images, literature, and theatre, before heading to the White Swan for a companionable drink. The next symposium is on Saturday June 6th at the House of Illustration, and we are sure it will be as enjoyable and productive as this one! Keep an eye on the blog and the events page for details of the programme and registration.