Making Art, Picturing Practice: The Artist’s Studio in Britain ca. 1700–1900

Yale Center for British Art, Graduate Summer Seminar June 6–11, 2011

In June 2011 the Yale Center for British Art (ycba) will offer a week long graduate student seminar, generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, open to doctoral candidates working on topics relating to the artist’s studio and artistic practice in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries.

The artist’s studio has long been a major subject of art historical enquiry, and over the past two decades a burgeoning corpus of publications and exhibitions has examined the studio as both concept and space. While the studio is no longer taken at face value as the “imagination’s chamber,” uniquely revealing of artistic invention and creativity, the processes that take place therein and the hands that undertake them continue to remain somewhat elusive. And although we know that many studios were busy environments populated not only by artists, visitors, and patrons, but also by assistants and apprentices, it remains difficult to map these activities onto our readings of works of art.

This seminar examines the processes of learning, teaching, training, and making that underpin the production of any work of art, but that often remain invisible. It will focus on the studio understood in its broadest sense, both as site and idea, and will closely examine representations of studios alongside other evidence of their function and appearance, such as diaries, notebooks, letters, studio ephemera and equipment, as well as the works produced in them. Ranging across a wide spectrum of studio environments—including the work spaces and drawing rooms of art academies and schools, the differentiated spaces used by men and women, the private ateliers of painters such as Kneller, Reynolds, Turner, and Whistler, and the studios of sculptors such as Rysbrack, Chantrey, Thornycroft, and Epstein—the seminar seeks to open up exciting new approaches to the study of this central arena of artistic practice, collaboration, and display. It will especially focus on London studios and schools but will also examine the “imperial” studio and explore how artistic practices were circulated across the British Empire.

The seminar will draw upon a rich archive of visual materials and documents that illuminates the processes and  activities that lie behind the making of art: sketchbooks, painting manuals, notebooks, and maquettes; unfinished  works, attempts, failures, and copies; works by amateurs, aspiring artists, apprentices, and accomplished masters; studio props and costumes; mannequins, optical devices, tools, and materials. Incorporating a wide range of materials and objects held by the Center, as well as in other collections at Yale and nearby museums, the purpose of the seminar is to interrogate representations and interpretations of the studio through primary visual documents, developing methods for the analysis and critique of the visual and material culture that can inform our understanding of art practices.

The instructors for the seminar are Martina Droth, Head of Research and Curator of Sculpture at the YCBA, and Mark Hallett, Professor of Art History and Head of Department, the University of York, UK. The course is open to current PhD students within the United States and internationally, whose doctoral research relates to the seminar’s focus on the studio and artistic practice (although not necessarily limited to a British context).
Participants will be provided with economy airfare, ground transportation, meals, and accommodation at Yale. Students are expected to undertake reading assignments in advance of the seminar. A syllabus and details of assignments will be available in late spring 2011.

Application Process

Applications must be submitted electronically. Please include a  one- to two-page statement of how your research interests intersect or complement the focus of the seminar, and an indication of what you hope you to gain for your own work by your participation. Applications should be e-mailed to:

Marinella Vinci
Senior Administrative Assistant
Department of Research
Please also address any queries to Marinella Vinci.
The deadline for receipt of applications is January 21, 2011.