Pioneers of Local Thinking, 1740-1820

Arts of Place is excited to introduce our new project…

‘Pioneers of Local Thinking, 1740-1820’ is a two-year project supported by the British Academy. Over the course of the 2023-24 academic year, we will present a series of seminars to consider how a range of artists and writers – from William Cowper to William Green of Ambleside, and from the Smiths of Chichester to George Crabbe – departed from eighteenth-century conventions of literary and pictorial representation. Together, they reimagined how art and literature can shape, and be shaped by, local identity and the environment.

George Smith (1714–1776), A Winter Landscape, c.1770, Yale Center for British Art

The project aims to provide new insights into the growth of localism in poetry and painting in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We will investigate some of the ways in which Dutch and Flemish aesthetics influenced those working in provincial areas of Great Britain. Asking how European culture permeated British towns and villages, we’ll look at the precedents set by Rubens, Rembrandt, van Ruisdael, and Hobbema (amongst others), and how these contributed to the development of new forms and artistic methods in culturally and geographically peripheral parts of Britain.

Taking an interdisciplinary, comparative, and collaborative approach, we will work between text, image, geography, natural history, and the social and philosophical changes of the Romantic period. We want to consider the importance of this cultural history of localism as we experience a resurgence of regionality today, through governmental policy, in environmental activism, through experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a burgeoning new school of nature writing. What do the place-writers and artists working today make of their Romantic roots?

We hope many of you will join us to think through this subject and share your insight and experience. 

 

John Sell Cotman (1782-1842), Ruined House, 1807-1810, Yale Center for British Art

“To the Lakes!”: Local artistic perspectives

with guest speaker Jeff Cowton MBE, Principal Curator & Head of Learning at the Wordsworth Trust

Monday 20 May, 5pm, UoB Arts Building, Room G20 and on zoom (please register here for the link) with Jessica Fay in response and conversation.

The Lake District attracted outside tourists and artists from around 1750 onwards. However, their experiences were partly shaped by the writers and artists local to the area. Join us as Jeff Cowton focuses on the writers and artists resident in what is now Cumbria during the late eighteenth century, their challenge to pictorial conventions surrounding landscape, and their engagement with the emergent tourism industry. 
.

William Green (1760-1823), View of Windermere and Belle Isle, pencil and watercolour, Eton College

Cotman, Aubrey, and the Neglected Places 

with guest speaker Prof. Peter Davidson (Oxford)

Monday 27 November, UoB Arts Building, Room G20 and on zoom (please register here for the link)

For the first research seminar of our new project ‘Pioneers of Local Thinking, 1740-1820’, we will welcome Prof. Peter Davidson to Birmingham for a discussion of John Sell Cotman, John Aubrey, and representations of neglected or marginal places spanning the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Tracing a rich and rangy seam of placethinking, Peter will discuss Aubrey’s drawings of his own house (made in 1670 when he knew that he would have to leave it), particularly his set of views of undramatic slopes and ends of fields. These are places which carry the same all-but-secret autobiographical meaning as the views of underbrush and shadowed streams which John Sell Cotman made in the course of his northern tour in 1805. Peter will cast back through these English expressions of place to the wider context of Dutch paintings of ordinary time in ordinary corners, and forward to consider their qualities in relation to Wordsworthian romanticism.  After his talk, Peter will join Alexandra Harris in conversation followed by a Q&A. Peter is Senior Research Fellow in Renaissance and Baroque Studies and Curator of the Campion Hall Collection in Oxford. He has authored monographs on the verse of Richard Fanshawe and Robert Southwell, as well a trio of acclaimed texts on landscape art: The Idea of North (2005), Distance and Memory (2013) and a cultural history of twilight The Last of the Light (2015). This will be a hybrid event taking place in the UoB Arts Building, Room G20. To join the event online, please register here.   Image: John Sell Cotman, Mousehold Heath, Norwich, 1810

Sean Ketteringham

Sean Ketteringham

Research Associate, University of Birmingham
Postdoctoral Researcher, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

 

I am the Research Associate for ‘Pioneers of Local Thinking, 1740-1820’, Arts of Place’s British Academy-funded project. Between October 2023 and May 2024 I will be contributing to all aspects of Arts of Place and helping Alex and Jessica shape our new programme of events. We are setting out to explore the creative minds of those artists and writers who revolutionised how place, locality, community, and the natural world were observed and understood in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British culture.

My research interests are centred around artistic, architectural, and literary articulations of English national identity in relation to the terminal decline of the British Empire during the twentieth century. My doctoral research, completed at Oxford in 2022 under the supervision of Rebecca Beasley, explored these ideas through the cultural crucible of domestic space between 1910 and 1948. It spanned suburban developments, the picturesque, modernist homes, and architectural preservation. I’m currently turning this work into a monograph for Oxford University Press titled Architectures of Identity: English Modernism, Domesticity and Imperial Decline. My new project at the Henry Moore Institute, titled ‘Postwar Folk’, extends these concerns to the period after 1945 through an examination of the triangular bond between postwar sculpture, English folk art, and so-called ethnographic museum collections.

Thinking around deep time, heritage, place and locality is marbled throughout my research and I have regularly worked in the heritage sector and on research residencies including at the National Trust, the Twentieth Century Society, the John Latham Foundation (Flat Time House), Grizedale Arts, and the Charles Moore Foundation, Texas. Prior to my doctorate I received my BA in English at the University of Liverpool, and my MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute.