Home Subjects

a working group dedicated to the display of art in the private interior, c. 1715-1914

Introducing Home Subjects

Welcome to our first post for “Home Subjects,” a new research working group which aims to illuminate the domestic display of art in Britain. Our goal is to examine the HOME as a place to view and exhibit works of art within the historical context of the long 19th century. We are seeking scholars whose work touches on this broad topic to join the conversation.

Though the quote from Richard Westmacott that headlines our page focuses on the display of painting, the parameters of this working group are much broader. The goal is to explore the display of art in all media, especially the decorative arts and their interaction with the “fine arts.” Domestic display also hinges on the related subjects of collecting, marketing, and even new developments in architecture, to name only a few of the more obvious directions this research could take.

If you are working on a subject that speaks to this topic in any way, please follow our blog, and add your comments, suggest related topics or recent publications, or offer new ideas to pursue.

You may also consider sending in a proposal for one of our upcoming conference sessions. Look for “Home Subjects” as the Historians of British Art-sponsored session at CAA in New York next year (2015).

Call for Papers:

Recent scholarship has emphasized the importance of the house itself and notions of “domesticity” as important touchstones in British culture. At the same time, art historians have tended to focus on a history of British art premised on the display of art in public; according to this important narrative, British art developed in relationship to the public sphere in the 18th century. Art institutions and exhibitions asserted the importance of the display of art in forming audiences into publics in cultural and political terms. Such efforts continued in the “exhibition age” of the 19th century, when display of artwork in museums, galleries, and special exhibitions solidified the important role given to art in articulating a public sphere. This narrative overlooks the continuation of older paradigms of display, especially those premised on the private and domestic audience for works of art. We aim to explore this “counter-narrative” of the home as the ideal place to view works of art, a view which permeated all areas of art and design and which persisted throughout the nineteenth century, despite the prevailing narrative of the development of public museums.

Also at stake in this project is a reconsideration of domesticity and its relationship to modernity. Important recent scholarship has illuminated some of the ways in which entrenched narratives of modernity and artistic modernism were defined in opposition to the domestic sphere. In a typical avant-garde gambit, artists distinguished works of art from objects of interior decoration by rejecting the private and the domestic. This session aims to bring together scholars whose work addresses this topic in order to posit a new trajectory for modernity, one that can be traced through the private, domestic sphere.

Proposal abstracts should be no more than 500 words, and should be accompanied by a current 2-page c.v. and must be received by email to homesubjects@gmail.com by August 15, 2014. Please also include a mailing address, telephone number, and email.

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