Prize Books and Politics: Rethinking Working-Class Life in Edwardian Britain
Digital Exhibition Launch – March 5th 2020
At the beginning of the Edwardian era (1901-1914), the British working classes, who represented 75% of the country’s total population, were one of the most literate and politically active in the world.
This was the result of more than twenty years of free and compulsory education, as well as the development of the labour movement, characterised by widespread trade unionism and socialism.
Book inscriptions offer a unique opportunity to explore the lives of working-class Edwardians, standing as important first-hand evidence of their reading habits, social circles, jobs, hobbies and political and religious beliefs. While some provide the formative voices of future Labour MPs or trade union leaders, most capture the voices of forgotten ‘everyday’ Edwardians who toiled as servants, seamstresses and miners.
Prize Books and Politics is a new digital project that brings to life many of these untold stories, encouraging fresh understandings of working-class life in Edwardian Britain.
The account can be followed on Instagram @prizebooksandpolitics and on Twitter @prizebook
To mark two-hundred and fifty years of the Royal Academy, the Paul Mellon Centre and the RA have just launched a major online project, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle 1769-2018. The website not only contains links to all the summer exhibition catalogues, but includes short essays exploring every single year of the show. This is obviously exciting news for anyone interested in art in Britain, and also for scholars of Edwardian culture. Explore the Edwardian Royal Academy here.
Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following announcement:
The J. M. Barrie Literary Society is officially launched! And for those who missed the birthday party at Kirriemuir on 9th May, a second event will be welcoming all at Senate House, London, 19th June at 5pm. See the website or facebook page for more details, or contact email@example.com.
Barrie is too often lost in the shadow of his most famous creation, Peter Pan. Our purpose as a Society is to promote and collectively enjoy the full range of Barrie’s huge and varied literary output, from the earliest journalism to the latest plays. We privilege texts over biography, and encourage active textual discussion and appreciation. Membership is FREE for the first year for those who join before 19th June 2017: sign up at www.jmbarriesociety.com. Whether you harbour a secret love for Thrums, have been puzzled by Mary Rose, or are simply interested in learning more about Barrie’s work, we look forward to welcoming you.
Screening the Victorians in the Twenty-First Century
2017 special issue of Neo-Victorian Studies
Despite frequent predictions of their disappearance, appropriations of the Victorian era never quite seem to leave our film, television and computer screens. Indeed, in popular prime-time viewing from Doctor Who (2005-) to Sherlock (2010-) and Penny Dreadful (2014-), and in cinematic blockbusters such as Sweeney Todd (2007), Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Crimson Peak (2015), the Victorians remain a particularly visible part of present-day culture. This special issue will explore recent popular screen Victoriana ‘for the masses’ and the politics of its production, distribution, audience reception and consumption. We seek contributions that engage with the breadth of screen media, from big-budget film and television series produced by the likes of the BBC and Showtime to online web-series created by small production companies and non-professionals. How has screen Victoriana developed since the millennium? How might we address questions of neo-Victorianism’s periodization via the film medium? In a time when transnational co-production is increasingly common, how important are national origins and audiences in shaping neo-Victorianism on screen? What ‘sells’ these myriad moving images of the nineteenth century? Wherein resides their distinctive appeal and what meanings, values, and affects do audiences invest therein? Possible topics could include but are by no means limited to: Continue reading
Harold Gilman, “Stanislawa de Karlowska”, c. 1913 (Yale Center for British Art)
Edwardian scholars may be interested in the Early Career Researchers in British Art Network, the aim of which is to support ECRs working in the field of British art history. The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art will host regular afternoon gatherings where members can gather to present short papers, offer one another feedback, discuss their experiences and share information about career-related topics. They also hope to invite speakers to give career development advice, and to workshops on popular topics if there is demand. Their website includes a list of researchers, events, and featured ‘research journeys’. They will be hosting three events in the coming semester, details of which can be found here.
Arthur Wardle ‘An Idyll of Summer’
Although it has long been conventional art-historical wisdom that by the
early twentieth century, the Royal Academy (and academic practice more
generally) was irrelevant to serious art and artists, it remained, in fact,
extremely influential. The annual summer exhibitions continued to be
major events, attracting an average of 12,000 submissions (with about 2,000 of them accepted for hanging) and 280,000 visitors each year. And press coverage of the Academy actually increased during these years, as the
flood of ‘new-journalism’-style tabloid papers and lifestyle magazines
covered the Academy as both an artistic and a social event, providing
details of the crowd, conversation and atmosphere. (Pamela Fletcher, ‘Human Character and Character-Reading at the Edwardian Royal Academy’, Visual Culture in Britain, 14:1, p. 25)
The continuing influence of the Royal Academy throughout the Edwardian Era has, as Pamela Fletcher’s comment attests, received little attention from art historians, most of whom are happy to swallow the notion that their exhibitions were a worthless parade of sentimental narrative paintings, eccentric historical re-enactments, dull landscapes and pompous portraits; anathema to any forward-thinking individual. The relative invisibility of many popular Royal Academy paintings – now hiding in gallery storage, or in private collections – makes it hard to stage a recovery. The digitisation of documents such as the annual ‘Royal Academy Illustrated’ (copies of which can be found on archive.org, among other resources) does, however, gives us a generous glimpse into the weird, wonderful and engaging world of the Edwardian Royal Academy, as this series of posts hopes to show. See more highlights below!
Royal Academy Illustrated 1900 (link to catalogue)
J. T. Nettleship, ‘Into the Silent Sea’
Augustus John, ‘Moses and the Brazen Serpent’, 1899
The most significant part of the University College London Art Museum consists of work by students and staff of the Slade School of Fine Art. The Slade was founded in 1871 with the aim of providing progressive art training based on the system of education in the French Academy with its emphasis on intensive study from the life model. From its earliest years the Slade awarded annual prizes for painting in categories such as figure painting, head painting and painting from antique casts. With the appointment of Frederick Brown as Slade Professor in 1892 a new painting prize, the Summer Composition Prize, was introduced. Students were given a set title (such as ‘Bathers’ or ‘The Play Scene from Hamlet’) and expected to produce a large-scale multi-figure work over the summer vacation which would be judged publicly at the beginning of the autumn term Continue reading
The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club seeks to unpack all the references and information contained within Erskine Childer’s popular 1903 novel The Riddle of the Sands. The project also includes a crowdfunding campaign with a view to taking the book out into the field, replaying it day by day and remixing and replaying it for a modern audience. Please see their website for more on this intriguing venture!
Spencer Gore, The Artist’s Wife, c.1911
Birmingham Museums Trust runs nine museum sites across the city of Birmingham, the most prominent of which is the Birmingham Art Gallery, which opened in 1885. Though famous for its collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, the gallery also owns many major works by Edwardian artists, including the Birmingham-born Henry Tonks (1862-1937) and Arthur Joseph Gaskin (1862-1928) and the Birmingham-based Joseph Edward Southall (1861-1944).
1. Arthur Gaskin, The Twelve Brothers (1898)
2. John Byam Liston Shaw, The Boer War, (1901)
3. Joseph Edward Southall, Fisherman Carrying a Sail, 1906-7
4. Henry Tonks, The Crystal Gazers, 1905-6 Continue reading
Charles Lambert Rutherston (1866-1927) was the older brother of the artists William Rothenstein (1872-1945) and Albert Rutherston (1881-1953). After training at Bradford’s Technical College and showing some talent as an artist, Charles followed his father into the textile industry. A successful businessman, he remained a keen supporter of the arts and collected widely, from Chinese bronzes to contemporary prints. Rutherston played a key role in the careers of many young artists – including Gwen and Augustus John, Paul Nash, Wyndham Lewis and Henry Moore – as well as being the leading patron of his brother William. Wyndham Lewis noted that Rutherston was one of the few men he allowed into his studio: ‘For him I left the gate ajar. This was not only because one naturally likes people who came “collecting” the works of one’s hands, but because he was one of the pleasantest and least affected people of my acquaintance’. Continue reading