Past Events

George Romney in the Prison-World of Europe

Lecture Series – Nicholas Robbins

  • 17 November 2022
  • 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre and Online

Howard Visiting a Prison George Romney (1734–1802) was one of the most successful portrait painters in Georgian London. His paintings were sought after for the healthful, prosperous glow they imparted to their subjects. The valuable, and unremarkable, quality of individuality found in his portraits emerged against the backdrop of the eighteenth century’s radically unequal social world – and in private, Romney reflected upon this economic and social misery. This lecture will examine a large series of drawings Romney made for a planned set of paintings about celebrating John Howard (1726–1790), who achieved fame for bringing attention to the dangerous, unhealthy conditions in prisons and jails across Europe. Here, we will consider Romney’s drawings – rapid, experimental, often enigmatic – which recorded the artist’s ideas for these and other painting projects. Considering Romney’s attenuated struggle to find an adequate representation of incarceration in relation to Howard’s theories of prison reform, the lecture will explore the contingencies of art in an age of revolutionary change and social ferment.

No prior art historical knowledge is necessary.

Georgian Provocations Series II is convened by Martin Postle, Senior Research Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre.

Registration via Eventbrite is required and is now open. This series will take place in person at the Paul Mellon Centre and will also be streamed live via Zoom Webinar.

Recommended Reading

Yvonne Romney Dixon, “Romney’s Drawings and Academic Tradition,” in Those Delightful Regions of the Imagination: Essays on George Romney, edited by Alex Kidson (Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Yale Center for British Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 187–221.

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Nick Robbins

    Nicholas Robbins is a lecturer in British Art at University College London, and is currently writing a book on the aesthetic, scientific and cultural history of climate in nineteenth-century Britain. His recent article re-examining the relationship of John Constable and Luke Howard’s meteorological aesthetics received the 2022 Emerging Scholars Award from the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association.