A Christmas Workshop: RIN/House of Illustration Partnership

Anna Glendenning is a PhD candidate from Roehampton’s Centre for Research in Romanticism, who works on caricature. She reports here on the Romantic Illustration Network’s collaboration with the House of Illustration on a workshop for Y8 pupils, supported by the University of Roehampton.

On Thursday 3rd December, the House of Illustration in King’s Cross London was home to an exciting day of collaboration between local schoolchildren, RIN member Dr. Mary L. Shannon from the University of Roehampton, and professional illustrator Merlin Evans.

A group of thirty girls aged 12-13 (from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington) braved a suitably chilly winter’s morning to visit the House of Illustration, where they immersed themselves in a special workshop on Dickens’s A Christmas Carol .  I also got to help out: it was hugely enjoyable to be part of such an inspiring day of interdisciplinary fun. For the full photostory, see http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/Courses/English-and-Creative-Writing/News/There-s-no-Bah-Humbug-this-Christmas-for-pupils-at-illustration-workshop/.

Dickens’ text has long been a favourite in English classrooms, but it was the aim of this collaboration to give the girls a unique opportunity to explore the crucial role of illustrations – both conceptually and creatively – with two experts.

The HOI’s learning programme, with Head of Education Emily Jost at its helm, is dedicated to bringing illustrations into the limelight. Its core aim is to enhance knowledge of and confidence in visual communication for all. The Romantic Illustration Network (RIN) shares this enthusiasm. RIN’s project to restore the importance of visual culture in the Romantic period involves a commitment to sharing and to promoting access to the research it undertakes.

Mary Shannon, who specializes in Victorian print culture and is a Dickens expert, led a lively session. By contrasting different illustrations of Scrooge with Dickens’s narrative, trying out their own sketches, and learning from Shannon about Victorian Christmas traditions, the girls contributed lots of compelling thoughts and critiques, expanding their understanding of the relationship between illustrations and Dickens’s text.

After taking a look at the House of Illustration’s current exhibition, the girls returned to the studio for a special session with Merlin Evans. Evans brought in tools from her trade and shared some different techniques of collage-making and line work to help the girls to get to grips with the material qualities of producing images. The girls rummaged through photocopies of Victorian illustrations and had the chance to try out the new drawing methods Evans had demonstrated. The results were exquisite. The girls were able to compare their work with the earlier sketches they had made – a great way to show how their understanding of Scrooge’s character had developed over the course of the workshop, and, hopefully, to boost their illustration skills and confidence into the future.

Future collaborative workshops involving RIN’s Professor Ian Haywood (Roehampton) and Dr Susan Matthews (Roehampton) are in the pipeline, so watch this space in the New Year!

Anna Glendenning

Event Report: ‘The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturised Gallery’, RIN 4, Saturday 6 June 2015

The fourth Romantic Illustration Network symposium took place at the House of Illustration on Saturday the 6th of June. Once again the event was well-attended with a friendly mix of regulars and new faces, local and international.house-of-illustration-logo-kids-in-the-halls-column-arts-agency

We had two inter-related themes for the symposium:

1.Miniaturization: Drawing on Peter Otto’s work on virtual culture in the Romantic period, is the illustration a form of virtual gallery? How does visual meaning change when an image is resized?
2.The Art of Quotation: How were literary quotations used to conceptualise visual images? How important are framing devices to the meaning of an image?

However, speakers were free to interpret the terms ‘quotation’ and ‘miniaturised gallery’ in any way they saw fit, and to raise any other questions they chose.

We kicked off with David Worrall (Roehampton/Nottingham Trent) who presented us with his concept of ‘locations of curation’. After crediting William St Clair in RIN 3 for inspiring his quest for a new theory of illustration, Worrall explored what he described as two currently disconnected narratives – Romanticism and eighteenth-century theatre – to consider the changing moments when images interact with other objects, such as the people who view them. He used the example of theatrical portraits to demonstrate how images moved from stage, to page, to prints, to household objects.

Susan Matthews’s (Roehampton) paper interrogated questions of scale, domesticity, and artistic encounter, the idea of ‘meeting’ an artist though their illustrations. She pointed out that the name ‘House of Illustration’ (as opposed to ‘Gallery of Illustration’) is significant: we often seem to want to give illustration a ‘home’. She focused on Fuseli’s illustrations to an edition of Cowper’s popular poem The Task (1785), and revealed the awkward tensions between Fuseli’s depictions of domestic scenes and Cowper’s lines, whilst also showing that Fuseli could produce powerful images on a small scale when he really wanted to. Matthews drew parallels between Fuseli’s techniques and the recent exhibition of Paula Rego’s work at House of Illustration.

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Plate 17, The Book of Urizen William Blake Archive

From here we zoomed in still further, with Peter Otto’s (Melbourne) paper on plate 17 of Blake’s The Book of Urizen (1794). Otto gave a detailed and original reading of the plate which encompassed The Terror and images of decapitation by guillotine, the story of Adam and Eve, Perseus and the Gorgon, and the Narcissus myth to show how the plate connects primal history with events unfolding in the present through an art of visual and textual quotation. He argued that the plate illustrated a turning point in society, represented as a decapitation, and that Blake was constructing an imagined reality through quotation which in turn tries to shape or frame what reality is.

From royal executions to royal collections, Kate Heard (Royal Collection) showed us how George III and George IV both engaged with the reproductive print market, albeit in very different ways, as prints enabled middle-class consumers to gain access to items in the Royal Collection. We saw how Royal Collection items circulated as prints, so much so that satirical caricaturists could imitate them, and she argued that the print market played a crucial role in the public sense of the King. We also saw what a fantastic resource the Collection is for scholars.

Taking us through to the Victorian period, Bethan Stevens (Sussex) spoke about her work on the albums of proofs put together by the dominant mid-century London wood-engraving firm, the Dalziel family. The firm of Dalziel produced the illustrations to a vast range of literary and non-literary texts, including such classics as the Alice books and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Stephens showed how, in the albums, the exclusion of words affects the status, form and narrative of illustration, and provokes a new attention to illustrations as images which enables all kinds of subversive and intriguing readings.

Three Bibliographical Society Studentships were awarded: Anne Musset (Warwick/Paris-Diderot), Tessa Kilgariff (National Portrait Gallery/Bristol), and Naomi Billingsley (Manchester). We ended the day, as usual, with a period of open discussion about the broader themes of the event and the future of the network (upcoming ventures include the panel at BARS 2015 in Cardiff and the digitised Shakespeare Gallery, currently under construction). After that we adjourned to the pub, to round off a successful and fun day with a friendly drink.

Details of the BARS panel will be appearing on the blog and website soon: we hope to see you there!

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REMINDER: RIN 4: The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery. Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm, The House of Illustration, London

The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery.
Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm 
The House of Illustration, London
Peter Otto (Melbourne), David Worrall (Roehampton/Nottingham Trent), Kate Heard (Royal Collection), Susan Matthews (Roehampton), Bethan Stevens (Sussex).
Supported by the University of Roehampton and the Bibliographical Society. Organised with the assistance of House of Illustration.

This session follows two themes:
1.Miniaturization: Drawing on Peter Otto’s work on virtual culture in the Romantic period, is the illustration a form of virtual gallery? How does visual meaning change when an image is resized?
2.The Art of Quotation: How were literary quotations used to conceptualise visual images? How important are framing devices to the meaning of an image?

…and other related questions.

Registration is free, and includes free entry to the main exhibition. You can download the full programme here.

To register, please email Mary.Shannon@roehampton.ac.uk, giving your name, job title, and institution (if applicable).

REGISTRATION OPEN: RIN 4: The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery. Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm, The House of Illustration, London

The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery. Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm, The House of Illustration, London: Peter Otto (Melbourne), David Worrall (Roehampton/Nottingham Trent), Kate Heard (Royal Collection), Susan Matthews (Roehampton), Bethan Stevens (Sussex). Supported by the University of Roehampton and the Bibliographical Society. Organised with the assistance of House of Illustration.

We are delighted to announce that registration for this free event is now OPEN.

You can download the full programme here.

To register, please email Mary.Shannon@roehampton.ac.uk, giving your name, job title, and institution (if applicable). Places will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and there will be a waiting list.

We are also accepting applications for 3 Bibliographical Society Studentships of £60 each, to assist postgraduate students with attendance. 3 spaces are reserved for the successful candidates.

To apply, please send your CV, and a statement explaining how your research fits with the work of the Network and/or the Bibliographical Society (200 words max), to Mary.Shannon@roehampton.ac.uk by Monday 25th May. Successful candidates will be notified by Wednesday 27th May.

RIN 4: The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery. Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm, The House of Illustration, London

The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery. Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm, The House of Illustration, London: Peter Otto (Melbourne), David Worrall (Roehampton/Nottingham Trent), Kate Heard (Royal Collection), Susan Matthews (Roehampton), Bethan Stevens (Sussex). Supported by the University of Roehampton and the Bibliographical Society. Organised with the assistance of House of Illustration.

Registration for this event will soon be open: details will be posted on this blog.

We will also be advertising 3 Bibliographical Society Studentships of £60 each, to assist postgraduate students with attendance. 3 spaces are reserved for the successful candidates; details of how to apply will be advertised here soon.

UnivRoehamptonlogo Bib Soc support logo house-of-illustration-logo-kids-in-the-halls-column-arts-agency

Event Report: ‘The Artist and the Writer’, IES, 29th November 2014. Supported by the British Association of Victorian Studies and the University of Roehampton.

‘The Artist and the Writer’, IES, 29th November 2014.

Supported by the British Association of Victorian Studies (www.bavs.ac.uk) and the University of Roehampton.

‘The Artist and the Writer’ at IES told a chronological narrative of the relationship between artists and writers c. 1750 – 1850, revealing the contrasts and connections in book illustration from the eighteenth century to the Victorian period. The day opened with Lynn Shepherd’s paper on ‘Illustrating Pamela’. Shepherd showed how the illustrations to Pamela by Hayman and Gravelot create a narrative with a significantly different perspective from that provided by Pamela’s narration.  In the 28 illustrations – chosen on literary rather than visual grounds by Richardson himself – the ‘warm scenes’ are totally omitted.  Mr B’s assaults therefore exist only in Pamela’s words and not in the third person visual narration of the illustrations.  Lynn Shepherd read the images in terms of the pyramidal structures of contemporary conversation pieces, and also traced the gradual disappearance of barriers placing Pamela outside the class territory occupied by Mr B. The following discussion focused on the question of the kinds of visual literacy that readers might have brought to the task of reading the illustrations.  Shepherd argued that those who had sat for portraits would have understood the visual languages of these images.

Mary L. Shannon (Roehampton) introduces novelist and scholar Lynn Shepherd

Mary L. Shannon (Roehampton) introduces novelist and scholar Lynn Shepherd

Sandro Jung’s paper on ‘Thomas Stothard, Romantic Literature and the Illustrative Vignette’ took an ephemeral publication – The Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas  – as a means to overturn some of the key assumptions of illustration studies, namely that illustrators focused on old canon works newly freed from copyright. Stothard’s more than 800 head vignettes for Baker’s annual diary featured illustrations to recent and fashionable authors, prompting purchasers to discuss their current reading.  Baker followed Bell’s example in commissioning illustrations, but Baker made the decision to include recent poets not illustrated by Bell. Stothard, for instance, illustrated Crabbe, Byron and Scott, as well as Hayley’s Triumphs of Temper and Rogers’ Pleasures of Memory.  Stothard’s recognizable visual style thus provided a branding device not just for Baker’s publication but also for the concept of literature.  Jung argued that the Baker series offers a snapshot of consumer historical conditions.

Tim Fulford presented the early nineteenth-century as a period of virtual travel, when travellers prepared themselves by visiting exhibitions and looking at engravings, and picture books changed what the Romantic poets published.  Turning away from an earlier anti-picturesque aesthetic, and an earlier hostility about literary annuals, after 1818 Wordsworth and Southey repeatedly produced virtual topography, which functioned as guides for tourists.  The new urban bourgeoisie craved reminders of the countryside they had left, and technical developments made illustrations increasingly affordable.  Industrialization lowered the cost of paper, while from the 1820s the move to steel rather than copper engraving made larger print runs possible.  The Lake District gained its name through the sale of books of engraved views which were more popular than verse.  The Lake poets were therefore keen to foster links with artists and by the 1820s were working on jointly authored picture books in which poems were written to accompany pictures.  In the following discussion William St Clair argued that we needed to follow the logic of two industries and two media, tracing the links between them.

Exhibition of images from Senate  House Special Collections

Exhibition of images from Senate
House Special Collections

After a lunch sponsored by the British Association for Victorian Studies, and a visit to see some beautiful illustrated books in the Senate House library Special Collections (chosen to complement the day’s talks), Sophie Thomas traced the pre-history of the figure of the Bard in painting and illustration, from Thomas Jones’ the Bard (1774) via West, Sandby, Fuseli, Turner and Martin to the Bard in Blake’s illustrations to Gray and his painting of Gray’s Bard for his 1809 exhibition. Thomas’s paper on ‘Bardic Exhibitionism’ showed how Gray’s Bard appeared in Bentley’s illustrated Gray and reappeared in a lower illustrative mode in editions by Bell and Cooke, carrying complex meanings.

In the final session on Dickens, Mary L. Shannon’s ‘What did Dickens learn from Romantic Illustration?’ argued that Dickens drew on the more recognizable figure of Cruikshank to establish his own public identity, creating a visual image which drew on the conventions of visual Byronism.  Sadly, Ruth Richardson was unable to speak due to a bereavement, so more time was then devoted to open discussion. This ranged across author portraits, later images of Dickens and Victorian authors, continuities between the Romantic and Victorian periods, and links between theatre and visual culture. Anthony Mandal reminded us of the influence of Scott on Dickens, and Julia Thomas raised the significance of Luke Fildes’ watercolour tribute to Dickens, ‘The Empty Chair’ (1870).  The day concluded with a sociable drink nearby, at which it was agreed that the lively atmosphere, high-quality papers, and the trip to Special Collections had all made the event enjoyable, varied, and successful.

Susan Matthews, University of Roehampton

Report: 1st Reading Group Session

The inaugural meeting of the ‘Illustration: So What?!’ Reading Group took place on May 19th 2014 at the University of Roehampton, introduced by Mary L. Shannon and Susan Matthews. We convened for a varied and lively discussion, reflecting the nature of our chosen subject as well as the fields of scholarship represented at the table.

Susan Matthews opened the session with her observations regarding the etymology of ‘illustration’. The careful consideration given to the development of our contemporary usage of the word, in contract with its earlier meanings, emphasised just how much has the publishing industry and book design and decoration have evolved, even in recent times. This point is perhaps particularly poignant for the illustration scholar with a background as an illustrator, such as myself. As students – and scholars – it is often considered that illustration has existed since the earliest days of human creativity, and is at the heart of creative and intellectual development. The implication that in name at least this is not the case is quite profound; the acknowledgement that a timeless occupation is actually only 198 years-old (according to the OED definition) is a novel perspective. The idea that the Romantic illustrators were working in a newly named field, perhaps makes them more radical than was previously thought.

The core text, J Hillis Miller’s Illustration (1992), provided a number of interesting points for discussion. It was observed and agreed that Miller used ‘illustration’ with a multiplicity of meanings – with a particular penchant for added connotations of ‘light’. This, of course, married perfectly with discussion of pre-1816 definitions of ‘illustration’ as well as with the glowing glass books of Olafur Eliasson in his 2013 artwork A View Becomes a Window. Examination of Miller was as stimulating and varied as the contents of his book, with the group drawing parallels between all texts discussed as well as to fields as diverse as theatre and architecture.

The first meeting of the ‘Illustration: So What?!’ Reading Group did, as promised, throw new light on the idea of illustration. With future meetings planning to discuss texts just as varied as those considered here, and likely to be approached with the same enthusiasm and varied perspectives, I have no doubt that further light will be shed on this very rich area of study.

– Bee Hughes (PhD student, Liverpool John Moores)