Making the Modern Artist:
Culture, Class and Art-Educational Opportunity in Romantic Britain

Martin Myrone

Publicaton Date
September 2020
Standard Number
Yale University Press
288 pages, 270 x 216mm
200 colour + b/w illus.

The artist has been a privileged figure in the modern age, embodying ideals of personal and political freedom and self-fulfilment. Does it matter who gets to be an artist? And do our deeply held beliefs stand up to scrutiny?

Making the Modern Artist gets to the root of these questions by exploring the historical genesis of the figure of the artist. Based on an unprecedented biographical survey of almost 1,800 students at the Royal Academy of Arts in London between 1769 and 1830, the book reveals hidden stories about family origins, personal networks and patterns of opportunity and social mobility. Locating the emergence of the ‘modern artist’ in the crucible of Romantic Britain, rather than in nineteenth-century Paris or twentieth-century New York, it reconnects the story of art with the advance of capitalism and demonstrates surprising continuities between liberal individualism and state formation, our dreams of personal freedom, and the social suffering characteristic of the modern era.

About the author

  • Head shot of man

    Martin Myrone is an art historian and curator based in London, and is currently convenor of the British Art Network based at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.