Past Events

Aesthetic Encounters

Lecture, Research Seminar – Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Max Donnelly, Andrea Wolk Rager, Liz Prettejohn

  • 9 March 2022
  • 6:30 – 8:00 pm
  • The third in a series of talks in Spring 2022 by authors of books recently published by the Paul Mellon Centre.
  • Online

Join us for a series of talks in Spring 2022 by authors of books recently published by the Paul Mellon Centre. Each author will give a glimpse into their project, sharing insights about the process of researching, writing, and publishing their book. There will be two talks of around 20 minutes each, followed by a discussion and Q&A session.

In the third of these events, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Max Donnelly will speak about their research for their book Daniel Cottier: Designer, Decorator, Dealer and Andrea Wolk Rager will discuss The Radical Vision of Edward Burne-Jones (which will be published in May 2022). Together, the authors will consider new approaches to studying art, craft, and design of the nineteenth century and the intersection of art, social and political history for creating richer understandings of the work of the artists and art workers they have researched. The conversation will be chaired by Liz Prettejohn.

This event is online only.

Book cover Daniel Cottier: Designer, Decorator, Dealer

The story of an innovative designer and far-sighted art entrepreneur and the important role he played in the dissemination of nineteenth-century Aestheticism This book follows the phenomenal rise of Daniel Cottier (1838–1891) from an apprentice coach painter in Glasgow to the founder of Cottier & Co., a fine and decorative arts business with branches in London, New York, Sydney, and Melbourne. This gifted designer and brilliant art entrepreneur keenly spotted one of the key aspects of late nineteenth-century bourgeois culture – its focus on family, home, and church – and seized the artistic and commercial opportunities of the building and decorating boom that it created. Cottier was a proponent of the Aesthetic movement, an international trend in the history of culture, art, and design from the mid-1860s to the late 1890s; he understood the era’s desire for beauty and realised the economic possibilities of its commoditisation. Beyond biography, therefore, this book illuminates a significant event of late nineteenth-century cultural history – Aestheticism’s cult of beauty meeting with the bourgeoisie’s financial ability to possess it.

Book cover The Radical Vision of Edward Burne-Jones

Challenging the dominant characterisation of Edward Burne-Jones as an escapist who withdrew from the modern world into imaginary realms of his own creation, this groundbreaking book argues that he was engaged in a fundamentally radical defiance of the age, protesting against imperial aggression, capitalist economic inequality, and environmental destruction in the wake of the industrial revolution.

Harnessing the utopian power of embodied aesthetic encounters, Burne-Jones drew inspiration from the medieval concept of dreams as visionary states of transformation. Therefore, his art functioned not as a retreat, but as a vehicle for revolutionary awakening. Often characterised as a painter, this book re-centres Burne-Jones’s practice in the decorative arts, demonstrating that he consistently interrogated the boundaries of artistic media, in keeping with wider debates over the role of the arts in the nineteenth century. The first scholarly monograph solely devoted to Burne-Jones since 1973, The Radical Vision of Edward Burne-Jones offers a thorough re-examination of his work, illuminating his radical defiance of the artistic, social, and political hierarchies of nineteenth-century Britain.

About the speakers

  • Petra ten-Doesschate Chu is Professor Emerita of Art History at Seton Hall University. She has published widely in the field of nineteenth-century art, particularly on the topic of French Realism. In the last five years, she has also published two books on the artistic relations between China and the West during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and she has become interested in the art market, particularly in Daniel Cottier, the subject of her latest book, co-authored with Max Donnelly. Her textbook, Nineteenth-Century European Art, first published in 2003, is still widely used, not only in the US and Europe but also in China, where it was translated into Chinese in 2014. She is the Managing Editor of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, an open-access digital journal.

  • Max Donnelly is Curator of Furniture and Woodwork 1800–1900 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he has curated several displays. He practiced and studied fine art in Edinburgh and London before working for dealers in New York and New Bond Street and appearing on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. V&A publications include a chapter on furniture in C.F.A. Voysey: Arts and Crafts Designer (2016), contributions to The Story of Scottish Design (2018), and the book Christopher Dresser: Design Pioneer (2021). Max is co-editor of the monograph Daniel Cottier: Designer, Decorator, Dealer, published by the Paul Mellon Centre (2021), writes for journals including The Burlington Magazine, and has lectured in the UK, Europe, North America, and China. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Trustee of the Decorative Arts Society and the Emery Walker Trust.

  • Andrea Wolk Rager is the Jesse Hauk Shera Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her PhD from Yale University and held a Postdoctoral Research Associate position at the Yale Center for British Art from 2008 to 2011. In 2012, she served as co-curator with Angus Trumble for the exhibition Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century and co-edited the accompanying catalogue of the same title. Her forthcoming book, The Radical Vision of Edward Burne-Jones, will be published by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, distributed by Yale University Press, in the spring of 2022.

  • Liz Prettejohn is Professor and Head of Department of History of Art at the University of York. Her research is motivated by curiosity about the vexed status of British art within art-historical narratives about modernism and modernity. Her books include The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites (2000), Beauty and Art 1750–2000 (2005), The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture: Greek Sculpture and Modern Art from Winckelmann to Picasso (2012), and, for the Paul Mellon Centre, Art for Art’s Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting (2007) and Modern Painters, Old Masters: The Art of Imitation from the Pre-Raphaelites to the First World War (2017). She has co-curated exhibitions on Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John William Waterhouse.