The British Art Research Cluster (BARC) was founded in spring 2010 in order to consolidate existing research strengths in British art at the University of Bristol. Its formal inauguration took place on 8 November 2010, in which Professor Mark Hallett of the University of York gave a paper entitled Making a Reputation: Joshua Reynolds in the 1750s, with responses from Professors David Hopkins (Department of English) and Elizabeth Prettejohn (History of Art). Professor Prettejohn delivered The Paul Mellon Lectures 2011 at the National Gallery of Art (Monday 17 January to 14 February 2011) on The National Gallery and the English Renaissance of Art (Paul Mellon Centre). The British Art Research Cluster (BARC), currently led by Dr Grace Brockington, is run by a committee of staff and postgraduate students to coordinate events, grant applications, postgraduate research, and collaborations with museums and galleries.
'An English painting is as modern as a novel by Balzac' (Théophile Gautier, 1855)
Charles Blanc (art critic and founder of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts) called The Beguiling of Merlin, by Edward Burne-Jones, the 'most formidable painting' of the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878: 'There is a quintessence of the ideal, a sublimated poetry that seizes me at the heart'.
Modern or ideal? More like the novel, or more like poetry? The French critics present different perspectives on British art. They also show its striking impact in the international arena. That is in stark contrast to the conventional reputation of British art as insular and inward-looking, somehow apart from the mainstream development of the international art world.
The British Art Research Cluster (BARC) aims to explore British art in new ways: to place it in international and transnational perspectives, to question traditional interpretations, and to think afresh about the relations between the visual and the other arts. The Cluster supports research into British art of all periods, from the medieval to the contemporary, with particular emphasis on the ways in which British art has been interpreted, criticised, curated, and displayed. Its events and activities are organised by committees of staff and postgraduate students, and it collaborates with a wide range of museums and galleries.
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales Collaborative Doctoral Award (2008–11) for Archiving the Artist: The Graham Sutherland Collection at National Museum Wales
Awarded to Rachel Flynn (graduated 2013) for her thesis entitled Archiving The Artist: The Graham Sutherland Collection At Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Of Wales. This AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, between the University of Bristol and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, has had a number of benefits, both for the student and for the National Museum Wales. Throughout the three-year project the doctoral candidate, Rachel Flynn, was an active member of the AC-NMW Art Department. Her training included archival work, cataloguing, supervising interns, interacting with the public and with other scholars using the Sutherland collection, and giving public talks. She curated two exhibitions at National Museum Wales which attracted ca. 30 000 visitors, and advised on the exhibition Graham Sutherland: An Unfinished World at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 2011. Rachel has also published her work in art magazines and exhibition catalogues, including the website Art in America, and in Tate Etc. In June 2012, she was appointed Assistant Curator of Historic Art at National Museum Wales.
National Portrait Gallery and MShed Bristol
Dr Tania String’s research on Tudor portraiture led to a collaborative MA project with the National Portrait Gallery and the National Trust. Research on the exhibited works by MA students, supervised by Dr String, led to new discoveries that informed the catalogue and wall texts. A number of major authors (including John Banville, Tracy Chevalier, Terry Pratchett, Joanna Trollope and Minette Walters) supplied fictional lives to accompany the portraits. The exhibition attracted press attention and proved successful enough to transfer to the National Portrait Gallery itself (2011–12), with the addition of an expanded catalogue. The show then transferred to M Shed in Bristol (2012–13), where a new layer was added with the introduction of contemporary photographic portraits of famous individuals with a Bristol connection.
Imagined Lives http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2011/imagined-lives-portraits-of-unknown-people.php. Restaged at MShed as Real and Imagined Lives: http://mshed.org/whats-on/exhibitions/real-imagined-lives/
Montacute House, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Trust
'On the Nature of Women': Tudor and Jacobean Portraits of Women 1535-1620. Catherine Hunt (Cath.Hunt@bristol.ac.uk) shares her experiences of working on this project:"In 2007 I was part of a group of MA students who curated an exhibition of Tudor and Jacobean portraits at Montacute House. This was a joint project organised between the University of Bristol, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Trust. This provided excellent experience, including a visit to the NPG conservation studio, training in using the NPG archives, guidance on the practical implications of the hanging process, and, for those who wanted to, giving a gallery talk. Between us we wrote the captions, text panel and further information for visitors, and I was involved in producing family and educational materials. It was a great opportunity to see an exhibition through from beginning to end, with hands-on experience of practical and research skills, and a chance to meet and work with a range of professionals outside the University of Bristol History of Art Department."
Tate Britain ‘The Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain’
Led by Elizabeth Prettejohn (Bristol) and Dr Alison Smith (Tate), 2011-12. This unit gave students the opportunity to research and catalogue paintings by Pre-Raphaelite artists in the Tate collection, in preparation for Tate Britain’s major exhibition, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (2012-13). The unit combined taught seminars on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, its artists, and its historical contexts; visits to Tate Britain to work with Tate curators, and individual research into works in the collection. Students learned skills in museum cataloguing and object-based research, as well as studying the history of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Bristol Theatre Collection
The University of Bristol Theatre Collection is an accredited museum and research centre dedicated to the study of British Theatre History. It holds a vast collection of original documents, photographs, film footage and artefacts from theatres, actors, performers, designers and theatre historians. Students taking this unit work collaboratively to curate a scholarly exhibition drawn from the rich and diverse holdings of the Collection. They develop a theme for the exhibition, choose and research the objects, write the display texts and catalogue, prepare objects for exhibition and install the displays, manage the publicity and host a formal opening.
1) Shakespeare’s Villains, 2010-11.
2) A Life in the Theatre: The Beerbohm Trees and the Making of Her Majesty’s, 2011-12.
Rhian Addison (email@example.com) reports her experiences of working with the Theatre Collection: "Having had no previous academic experience in theatre practices I pursued this particular module with the University of Bristol Theatre Collection with the intention to gain as much curatorial experience as possible. Like any other module the course culminated in an essay, however presented far more of a learning curve than I anticipated. We were given privileged access to centuries of theatre memorabilia, scripts, costumes and art. It was our group responsibility to curate the exhibit, delegate work and open it to the public. We were able to choose the theme, the items on display, we were taught how to mount theatrical treasures and display them. Furthermore our research was independent on the collection, which in turn contributed to the interpretation of the exhibition. It was extremely encouraging that our research contributed to the quality of the collection. This module is ideal for anyone who has a keen interest in curating. The Theatre Collection presents opportunities for an unprecedented understanding of the details of curating and how to over come them. There is a great sense of achievement in the final exhibition."
The Courtauld Gallery - Life, Legend, and Landscape: Victorian Drawings from the Courtauld Collection
Doctoral Students Collaborated with The Courtauld Gallery on Life, Legend, and Landscape: Victorian Drawings from the Courtauld Collection, an exhibition that ran from 17 February -15 May 2011 at The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London, with a catalogue by postgraduate students from Bristol and the Courtauld.
Dr Brockington’s research on art and internationalism in Britain in the early twentieth century has expanded the field of British art studies, both in its discovery of new material, and in its challenge to the myth of an insular national tradition. Her doctoral research on the art of the peace movement in Britain in World War One was published as a monograph in 2010. She gave expert advice on the planning of the exhibition Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-19 (Courtauld Gallery, London, 2009), and contributed a catalogue essay on British art in the First World War.
Since the late 1990s, Dr Rowe has conducted research on contemporary diasporic artists working in Britain, resulting in publications in high profile academic publications including Art History, international conferences held at venues including the Victoria and Albert Museum and exhibition catalogue essays for national and regional collections. Her work explores how contemporary artists perform themselves through their art practices, often engaging with issues of identity within urban and historical contexts. Her work probes the boundaries of what constitutes ‘British’ art and argues for more inclusive art-historical practices.
Dr Stephen Cheeke, http://www.bristol.ac.uk/english/staff/cheeke.html
Dr Sam Matthews, http://www.bristol.ac.uk/english/staff/matthews.html
Dr Jane Wright, http://www.bristol.ac.uk/english/staff/wright.html
Professor Elizabeth Prettejohn – Head of Subject 2005-12 and founding convenor of BARC. She moved to York 2012: http://www.york.ac.uk/history-of-art/staff/liz-prettejohn/.
Since the late 1980s, Professor Prettejohn has played a leading role in the revaluation of Victorian and modern British art. Her research repositions Victorian art in relation to international modernism, with special attention to the vanguard movements in British art, particularly Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism. Her monographs on these subjects are now regarded as standard works. She has presented and advanced her research through the curation of major exhibitions, most recently J. W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite (Royal Academy of Art, London, 2009), and through contributions to numerous exhibition catalogues.
Dr Tania String
Dr String’s work on Henry VIII’s England repositions Tudor art in the wider culture of Early Modern Europe. Her book Art and Communication in the Reign of Henry VIII (Ashgate: 2008) explored ideas about the efficacy of art as propaganda in various media, particularly portraiture. She has co-curated two exhibitions with the National Portrait Gallery, London: ‘On the Nature of Women’: Tudor and Jacobean Portraits of Women, 1535–1620, which drew on her research into art and gender; and Imagined Lives: Mystery Portraits from the National Gallery, 1520–1640.
Emeritus Dean Michael Liversidge - http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arthistory/staff/liversidge.html
Emeritus Professor Stephen Bann (English art criticism): http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arthistory/staff/bann.html
Emeritus Professor Tim Mowl (1992-2011 – English garden history): http://www.timothymowl.co.uk/
We are grateful for the generous support of an anonymous donor.