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Title: Historical relations : representing collective identities: small group portraiture in eighteenth-century England, British India and America
Author: Stanworth, Karen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 8929
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 1994
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In this thesis I seek to challenge the authority of the visual narrative implied in small group portraiture in order to open up the apparent clarity of the depicted relations of the sitters to each other and to their place. The mediating role of territorial or boundaried constraints is questioned, particularly the ways in which political or gendered lines of demarcation serve to delimit the potentially unlimited narrative of the group. The objects of my research were chosen according to the time and place of production, and not in respect to any predetermined hierarchy of artistic excellence. The images are the products of diverse situations, places, and periods. Moving diachronically through the century, I look first at the early appearances of the mode as practised by Gawen Hamilton and William Hogarth. This is followed by a consideration of the significance of gender and class in the construction of storytelling around the small group portrait. In the next chapter, I examine the role of contested boundaries --personal, political and religious --- in the production of several portraits realised in 1780s British India. The final chapter focuses upon the rhetoric of familial and political representation in the portrait of George Washington and his family. The inherent characteristics of the genre, first identified in England as a 'conversation' or conversationpiece, were aligned with a widespread concern for conversational strategies in general during the 1720s and 30s. A close reading of George Vertue's comments about conversations suggests a different version of the historiographic account of the genre in that I find that the artists were praised by their contemporaries, vertue in particular, for their ability to visually re-present those desired strategies. If the genre can be understood as an historically-specific practice, as Vertue's remarks would suggest, then the continued utilisation of the mode through the century begs the question of whether there is likewise a mediating or constituting presence of local realities in the represented relations of the sitters. The particularity of small group portraiture in eighteenth-century English homes, whether in England, British India, or America resides both in the genre-based differences between group and individual portraiture, and in the visualisation of historicallyspecific narratives of the group
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available