Call for Papers

Johan Zoffany and his international contexts

Conference, 14 May 2012, at the Royal Academy of Arts and Geological Society, London

The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772-7, Johann Zoffany The Royal Collection © 2010, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II RCIN 40698

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, will be co-hosting a conference on Monday 14 May 2012 to accompany a major exhibition on the eighteenth-century Anglo-British artist Johan Zoffany (1733-1810). The exhibition, Johan Zoffany RA. Society Observed, is curated by Martin Postle (Paul Mellon Centre) with Gillian Forrester (Yale Center for British Art), and MaryAnne Stevens (Royal Academy), and will be held at the Yale Center for British Art from 27 October 2011 to 12 February 2012, and at the Royal Academy of Arts from 10 March to 10 June 2012.

Born in Frankfurt in 1733, Johan Zoffany trained as an artist in Germany and Italy. In 1760 he moved to London, where he adapted brilliantly to the indigenous art culture and patterns of patronage, creating virtuoso portraits and subject pictures that proved to be highly desirable to a wide range of patrons. Of all the major artists working in eighteenth-century England, none explored more inventively the complexities of Georgian society and British imperial rule than Zoffany. Yet, despite achieving considerable success there, he remained in many ways an outsider, looking dispassionately at British society. Resisting complete integration into his adopted country, Zoffany travelled for extended periods in Europe and spent six years in northern India. His body of work offers unique perspectives on key British and European institutions, including the art academy, the royal court, the theatre, and the families of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. In India, Zoffany constructed new idioms for portraying the emerging colonial society in both public and private spheres, as well providing a nuanced account of the complex network of power relations, race, and culture at a critical moment in British imperial history.

The conference aims to address Zoffany’s art in the context of four locations that were central to his practice: Germany, England, Italy, and India. Proposals are sought that examine aspects of Zoffany’s work, career, and patrons, as well as the institutions and social circles with which he associated, in relation to these very different geographical and political environments. Please send an outline of no more than 500 words for a 25-minute presentation, attaching a brief CV. Proposals should be sent to Martin Postle, at, Gillian Forrester, at

Deadline for submissions is 30 September 2011.