Upcoming Events

The Country House: Art, Politics and Taste

Public Lecture Course – John Goodall, Jonny Yarker, Oliver Cox, Michael Hall, Jessica Feather, Kate Retford, Martin Postle

  • 13 October to 1 December 2016
  • The course is now full. The waiting list is open and you can register by clicking the 'Book Tickets' button on this page.
  • Paul Mellon Centre

We are pleased to announce the 2016 Public Lecture Course, The Country House: Art, Politics, and Taste. The course has been developed in conjunction with the research project 'Country House: Collections and Display', and both will explore various facets of the collection and display of art in the country house in Britain and Ireland from the sixteenth century to the present day.

The Country House course will be taught by Martin Postle, Deputy Director of Grants and Publications; Jessica Feather, Allen Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre; John Goodall, Architectural Editor at Country Life magazine; Kate Retford, Head of the History of Art Department at Birkbeck College, University of London; Jonny Yarker, specialist on the Grand Tour; Oliver Cox, Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Oxford and Michael Hall, specialist on the Gothic Revival.

This year's course will run for eight lectures and will continue to be held weekly on Thursday evenings starting with an informal reception at 18.30. Lectures will then begin at 19.00 followed by a discussion session until 20.30.

The course requires some preparation on the part of the participant. Each lecture will have at most two readings, which will be provided electronically ahead of the start of the course, that participants are strongly encouraged to read in order to have some background knowledge on the topics being discussed in class each week.

As an educational charity the Paul Mellon Centre strives to promote and support academic research into the history of British Art. The Public Lecture Course, which will be free to attend, offers an exciting opportunity to broaden our audiences and to communicate the newest and most original research on British art in an engaging and accessible way.

The Country House course will take place on Thursday evenings between 13th October and 1st December 2016 in the Lecture Room at the Paul Mellon Centre.

The course syllabus is available below. The course is now full, but you can resgister onto the waiting list through Eventbrite and the button at the top of this page. The reading list will be circulated to participants in September.

About the speakers

  • John Goodall headshot

    John Goodall is Architectural Editor of the weekly magazine Country Life and the author of several books, most recently Parish Church Treasures (2015). He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, sits on the Fabric Advisory Committees of Salisbury Cathedral, St Albans Cathedral and Westminster Cathedral. 

  • Dr Jonny Yarker has published widely on the Grand Tour including: Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth Century Rome (Yale, 2010); The English Prize, the capture of the Westmorland, an incident of the Grand Tour (Yale, 2012) and the recent exhibition: Richard Wilson (1713-82): A European Master (Yale 2014). Jonny has held academic fellowships in America, London, and most recently, Rome. He is currently working on an account of the life and activities of the banker and dealer Thomas Jenkins (1722 - 1798) entitled The Business of the Grand Tour.

  • Dr Oliver Cox is the creator of the Thames Valley Country House Partnership and a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Oxford.

  • Michael Hall is a specialist in the Gothic revival and is the author of several books on 19th-century architecture and design, including The Victorian Country House (2009) and Waddesdon Manor: The Biography of a Rothschild House (third edition, 2012).

  • The Allen Fellow contributes to two flagship research projects being developed at the Centre. The first explores the history of the summer exhibitions at the Royal Academy in preparation for a major exhibition on this topic. The second will examine various facets of the collection and display of art in the country house in Britain and Ireland from the sixteenth century to the present day. In both cases, the Fellow will take particular responsibility for the on-line research resources for these projects.

    In addition to these responsibilities, Jessica pursues her own academic interests within the Centre’s vibrant research programme. Her PhD research focused on both challenging the received histories of watercolour, as well as the social networks of taste formation in the fin-de-siècle. In 2017 she co-authored the catalogue Places of the mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850–1950 that accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the British Museum, and was invited to act as expert curator in residence within the Prints and Drawings Department at the Courtauld Gallery. Jessica’s research interests are broad and include art historiography, art criticism, collecting and the art market.

    Jessica was previously employed as Curator of Works on Paper at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2001-9), where she was responsible for the care, acquisition, exhibition and interpretation of 8000 drawings, watercolours and prints across several venues. She curated a number of exhibitions during this period including Turner’s Journeys of the Imagination (2002) and Art Behind Barbed Wire (2004), both of which had accompanying publications. She was also the main author of British Drawings and Watercolours: Lord Leverhulme’s collection in the Lady Lever Art Gallery (2010), a fully illustrated catalogue raisonnée of around 300 eighteenth and nineteenth-century British watercolours. During this time, Jessica was a recipient of a fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art.

    Jessica has a PhD in Art History from the University of Reading for which she received a three-year AHRC scholarship. She has an MA in eighteenth-century British and French art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a BA in History from the University of Cambridge.

  • Kate Retford headshot in front of foliage

    Kate Retford is Professor of Art History at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on eighteenth-century British art, particularly on portraiture and the country house art collection. Her work includes The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-century England (Yale University Press, 2006); Placing Faces: The Portrait and the English Country House in the Long Eighteenth Century, co-edited with Gill Perry et al. (Manchester University Press, 2013); and The Georgian London Town House: Building, Collecting and Display, co-edited with Susanna Avery-Quash (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). Her recent book on the eighteenth-century British conversation piece, The Conversation Piece: Making Modern Art in Eighteenth-century Britain, was published by Yale for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in 2017, winning an Historians of British Art award.

    She is currently developing a project looking at the presentation of the country house as family home and will be writing a book about print rooms in eighteenth-century country houses, during a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2021–22.

  • Martin’s role as Senior Research Fellow focuses upon the research and writing of a catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Joseph Wright of Derby, the organization of a series of annual conferences on the history of the British art trade, organizing and running PMC workshops and public lecture courses, teaching on the Centre’s Yale in London undergraduate courses, and chairing and introducing research events at the Centre. Prior to his present appointment in October 2021, Martin was Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Centre. Between 1998 and 2007 he worked at Tate as Senior Curator and Head of British Art to 1900.

    Martin holds a PhD from Birkbeck College, University of London, an MA in British Romantic Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and a BA in Art History with History from the University of Nottingham. He is a Fellow of Society of Antiquaries, Trustee of Strawberry Hill House, The William Hogarth Trust, The Walpole Society, the De Laszlo Archive Trust, and Council member of the Attingham Trust. His research interests focus principally on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British Art, including portraiture, landscape, the history of art academies, and art in the country house.

    Martin’s many publications include Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Subject Pictures (Cambridge University Press 1995), Gainsborough (Tate and Princeton University Press 2002), and, with David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings (Yale University Press 2000). Among the exhibitions he has curated and co-curated are The Artist's Model: Its role in British Art from Lely to Etty (Kenwood and Nottingham 1991), Angels and Urchins: The Fancy Picture in 18th-Century British Art (Kenwood and Nottingham 1998), The Artist's Model: From Etty to Spencer (Kenwood, Nottingham and York 1999), Art of the Garden: The Garden in British Art, 1800 to the Present Day (Tate Britain, Belfast and Manchester 2004), Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity (Tate Britain and Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara 2005), Stanley Spencer and the English Garden (Compton Verney 2011), Johan Zoffany, RA: Society Observed (Yale Center for British Art and the Royal Academy of Arts, London 2011–2012),  Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting (Yale Center for British Art and the National Museum Wales, Cardiff 2014), George Stubbs: "All done from Nature" (MK Gallery, Milton Keynes and the Mauritshius, The Hague 2019–2020). Martin was commissioning editor and contributor to the major PMC research project, Art and the Country House, published online by the Centre in November 2020.