• 22 November 2019
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

"And the stranger will be inclined to marvel that the inhabitants of this island, left to their own resources, should have achieved the fabrication of such perfect pictures of life. Indeed, Cook was no more astonished at beholding the carvings with which the Tahitians decorated their ceremonial axes, than the foreigner will be when he pursues his explorations as far as the eastern end of the National Gallery, and suddenly finds himself face to face with Turner." (The National Gallery – Early British School. Introduction by Robert de la Sizeranne. London: Newnes, 1906, p.ix.)

This paper proposes to examine the implicit definition of insularity used by French art critic Robert de la Sizeranne (1866­–1932) to determine and describe the expression of a British artistic identity. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Robert de la Sizeranne was established as an English art history expert on both sides of the Channel thanks to his famous publication English Contemporary Art (1895). He defended the existence of a British art school, which expressed its insularity by formal aspects. Serving in the first place Robert de la Sizeranne’s battle against the spread of impressionism, the definition nourished the propensity to remove British art from European art history. If insularity could be understood as the negative of a French and continental artistic expression, Robert de la Sizeranne progressively introduced a more ambiguous dichotomy, as the plastic and formal translations of insularity were substituted by moral facets.


The National Gallery – Early British School. Introduction by Robert de la Sizeranne. London : Newnes, 1906, p.ix.

Robert de la Sizeranne's frontispiece for La Peinture Anglaise contemporaine 1844-1894

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Lageyre Julie_Headshot

    Julie Lageyre is a fourth-year doctoral student in Art History (centre François‑Georges Pariset /EA 538 – University Bordeaux Montaigne, France). Her thesis focuses on the writing of British painting history in France during the first half of the twentieth century. Her recent contributions examine the French translations of Joshua Reynolds and John Ruskin, and the exhibition of British painting in France from 1900 to 1938.