• 18 November 2011
  • 9:00 – 6:00 pm
  • Public Study Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Recent years have seen a major re-evaluation of British art and culture of the early modern period. Much of this work has focused on the representation of the national territory, in word and image, in plays and poems, illustrated surveys and travel accounts. Historians have addressed how these cultural practices responded to dramatic and sometimes violently contested change in the national landscape, wrought by agricultural and commercial improvement as well as civil wars and religious strife, fire and plague.

Yet, accounts of the specifically pictorial treatment of landscape in this period remain oddly divorced from these concerns, in large part because it is treated in isolation from other ‘arts of prospect’. This conference will explore the origins of British landscape as a pictorial genre, addressing developments in the two centuries that followed Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. It aims to re-examine landscape imagery in drawings, paintings and prints of the period, by exploring its relationship with other ‘arts of prospect’ employed to observe, record and moreover evaluate the country’s transformations. A prospect was a far-reaching vision of the future as well as a survey of the present, if also oftentimes reflecting on the pasts that had shaped the national territory. Accordingly, a central theme of the conference will be to consider the relationship between landscape imagery and the making, unmaking and remaking of Britain as a nation state.

Papers will consider a range of imagery, rural and urban, and address themes of travel and mobility, loyalty and rebellion, health and disease, in order to re-assess the origins of British landscape representation and its histories. Speakers will include Andrew McRae and Julie Sanders, Joseph Monteyne and Christine Stevenson.