History of Art Professor to deliver Paul Mellon Lectures at National Gallery
Press release issued: 4 February 2011
Elizabeth Prettejohn, Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol, is currently delivering The Paul Mellon Lectures 2011. The final two lectures in the series will be delivered on 7 February, 'A Taste of Spain', and on 14 February 'Postscript: On Beauty and Aesthetic Painting'.
The lecture series, entitled 'The National Gallery and the English Renaissance of Art', explores how British artists of the Victorian period responded to the art of the Old Masters in their own work. Victorian artists have often been castigated for their dependence on prototypes and precedents from the Old Masters. Prettejohn's lectures argue that, on the contrary, British artists' study of the Old Masters was a fertile source of innovation and creativity.
With the formation of the National Gallery in 1824, and the subsequent proliferation of exhibitions, reproductions, and scholarship on the Old Masters, the art of the past became visible and accessible as never before. Yet the history of art did not come ready-made to the Victorians. Such artists as van Eyck, Bellini, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, and Velázquez came to the National Gallery with the force of novelty. They were interpreted by the great Victorian critics, curators, and scholars and importantly, as these lectures will argue, by such artists as Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Millais, and Leighton. The lectures explore how the art of the past and the art of the present came to illuminate one another in the Victorian period.
Professor Prettejohn has been delighted by the audiences at the first lectures in the series. 'The Sainsbury Wing Theatre is a large space, but it has been nearly full every week,' Prettejohn said. 'I've felt each time that the audience was following me with real enthusiasm, even when the material has been difficult or challenging.'
Professor Prettejohn studied at Harvard University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Before joining the University of Bristol in 2005, she was Professor of Modern Art at the University of Plymouth; previously she was curator of Paintings and Sculpture at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. Professor Prettejohn is a member of Tate Britain Council, Tate Collections Committee, the Advisory Council of The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Advisory Board of the Cambridge Victorian Studies Group, and the Editorial Board of Art History. She is an active guest curator, and co-curated exhibitions on Laurence Alma-Tadema and Dante Gabriel Rossetti for the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Most recently she was co-curator of the highly successful exhibition John William Waterhouse, seen at the Groninger Museum (the Netherlands), the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2008-10).
Professor Prettejohn’s books include The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites (2000), Beauty and Art 1750-2000 (2005), and Art for Art's Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting (2007). Her current projects include a book, The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture: Greek Sculpture and Modern Art from Winckelmann to Picasso (forthcoming from I.B. Tauris in the series New Directions in Classics).
The Paul Mellon Lectures 2011 are held in the Sainsbury Wing Theatre, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, at 6.30 pm, Mondays from 17 January through 14 February. For further information and tickets, visit the National Gallery website.