• 21 May 2018

In the most recent issue of PMC Notes Caroline Corbeau-Parsons reported on the conference Crossing the Channel which took place in January 2018 at Tate Britain and the Paul Mellon Centre. You can now read this report below.

On 25-26 January, The PMC and Tate Britain jointly organised a conference to further explore, and expand on the themes of the exhibition Impressionists in London: French Artists in London (1870-1904). The proceedings opened at Tate Britain on 25 January in the Clore auditorium with a highly stimulating keynote by MaryAnne Stevens, Impressionists-Impressionism-London, which investigated the role played by London in the development of Impressionism, but also as a potential commercial platform for these artists.

The Tate show primarily focuses on Anglo-French networks in London at the time of the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune, and the contribution of French refugee artists to representations of London. As well as paintings, it includes photography, works on paper, but also a significant amount of sculptures, and the PMC conference on 26 January was the opportunity to go further and consider the impact of refugee artists on other media and practices. The breadth of topics covered by the conference was particularly striking, as was the variety of backgrounds of the speakers, coming from France, the UK and the U.S., with specialisms in paintings, prints, sculpture, and ceramics. This interdisciplinary approach gave rise to fresh perspectives, for instance, on the picturesque and anti-picturesque in the work of Pissarro and Sisley in the light of Henry Taunt’s photographs but also guidebooks’ imagery. The conference was the platform for new research on major figures such as Dalou and Tissot, but ground-breaking papers were also delivered on little-known but central figures in Anglo-French artistic networks. These included the painter and ceramic artist Jean-Charles Cazin, the porcelain artist Marc Solon (who introduced pâte-sur-pâte in England), the collector Kaye Knowles, as well as the printmaker Auguste Delâtre, which opened up exciting new lines of enquiry for 19th-century studies. In their role as chairs, MaryAnne Stevens, Rebecca Wallis, Stephen Bann and Andrew Stephenson expertly contextualised these papers to offer a much enriched picture of artistic practices, the art market, and collecting in the late 19th century. The conference was brought to a close with thought-provoking remarks by Anna Gruetzner-Robins, who put forward the idea that the group of artists coming from the Petite Ecole were the YBAs of the 19th century, and posited that Alphonse Legros’s Tinker may have been the starting point of naturalism in Britain. The atmosphere was particularly congenial, and delegates commented on how much they learnt from other disciplines on the day.

Image: James Tissot, The Ball on the Shipboard, c. 1874, Tate Britain, digital image courtesy of Tate.