Past Events

Transatlantic Romanticism


  • 2 September 2009
  • 9:30 – 7:00 pm
  • Public Study Room, Paul Mellon Centre

The object of this conference is to rethink romanticism in the American visual arts within a trans-Atlantic framework. The tendency of both art-historical interpretations of American art and of American Studies approaches has been to interpret their object in terms of a set of distinctly national characteristics. This approach has its value, but the great cultural movements of the modern period – in this instance Neo-Classicism and Romanticism – were inherently international and can not be detached ultimately from trans-Atlantic economic relations and the great political conflicts and rivalries of the period. Trans-Atlantic Romanticism will provide a forum in which to consider developments in the American visual arts of the period c.1789-1848 in relation to cognate developments in Britain – not only the key European centre for Americans seeking art training in Europe until the 1840s, but also a nation particularly associated with the cultural trends that were becoming known as Romantic.

The twelve papers and keynote lecture address the issues of Romanticism from a number of perspectives:

  1. The urban context in which artists worked in Britain and the United States , and notably London and New York, as a basis for comparing the socio-economic and institutional frameworks of Romantic culture.
  2. The literary discourse of early nineteenth-century Romanticism in relation to new attitudes to the arts and their place in society more generally.
  3. The work of individual artists who acted as link figures between British and American cultures, including Benjamin West and Washington Allston.
  4. Related developments in landscape and genre painting in Britain and the United States, represented by the work of Thomas Cole, John Quidor, John Martin, and JMW Turner.
A stormy sea scene with people in the water

John Martin, The Deluge, 1834, oil on canvas, B1978.43.11

Digital image courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection