Past Events

Portrait and Autograph: replication, authenticity and the authority of the image in the work of H.P. Briggs (1792-1844)

Lecture – Martin Myrone

  • 2 December 2015
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Lecture Room, Paul Mellon Centre

In the late 1830s, the London portrait painter Henry Perronet Briggs produced a number of works which incorporated, anachronistically, non-mimetic or indexical textual elements, including likenesses of the Duke of Wellington which involved the sitter literally writing on the canvas and, in at least one case, an actual letter being pasted onto the canvas. Given the character of painted portraiture in general in the early nineteenth century, and Briggs’s own practice, with its emphasis on slick replication and repetition, these are strange and surprising objects. But they cannot be dismissed as simple oddities; these were public images, among the most acclaimed of his paintings, and the significance of the Duke’s inscription was announced in press reviews and marketing. This paper will argue for their significance in the context of the ‘Age of Reform’, situating them in a moment of manic enthusiasm for autographs, evident in collecting practices and in the upsurge of printed facsimiles. I will suggest that Briggs’s works exemplify, in a formally disruptive way, a new striving for authenticity, an anxious searching-out of novel ways of signalling selfhood in a culture convulsed by political, economic and technological change.

All are welcome! However, places are limited, so if you would like to attend please contact our Events Manager, Ella Fleming on events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk

The seminar will be followed by a drinks reception.

About the speaker

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    Martin Myrone is an art historian and curator based in London. He held curatorial roles at Tate Britain for more than twenty years and is currently convenor of the British Art Network based at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

    He delivered a range of exhibition and display projects at Tate Britain, including Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination (2006), John Martin: Apocalypse (2011–12) and William Blake (2019–20). He was founding co-convenor of the Tate Research Centre: British Romantic Art (2010–13).