New Addition to the Art and Architecture ePortal

  • 23 February 2023

The Conversation Piece by Kate Retford is now exclusively available online via the Art & Architecture ePortal.

Pioneered by William Hogarth and his peers in the early eighteenth century, and then revitalised by Johan Zoffany, the conversation piece was an innovative mode of portraiture, depicting groups posed in landscape or domestic settings. These artists grappled with creating complex multi-figured compositions and intricate narratives, filling their paintings with representations of socially, nationally and temporally precise customs. Paying particular attention to the vibrant (and at times fabricated) interior and exterior settings in these works, Kate Retford discusses the various ways that the conversation piece engaged with the rich material culture of Georgian Britain. The book also explores how these portraits served a wide array of interests and concerns among familial networks and larger social groups. From codifying performances of politeness to engaging in cross-cultural exchanges, the conversation piece was a complex and nuanced expression of a multifaceted society.

More about Yale’s Art & Architecture ePortal can be found here.

Listing image caption: Johan Zoffany, The Sharp Family, 1779–81. Oil on canvas, 115.6 × 125.7 cm. National Portrait Gallery, London and the Lloyd-Baker Trustee