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Title: Artists in retrospect : the rise and rise of the retrospective exhibition
Author: Stefanis, Constantine
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis explores the emergence and development of the single-artist retrospective exhibition in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe. The retrospective is understood as the presentation of a considerable body of works by an artist spanning an extensive period of his or her production so as to represent a career. The first such exhibition, I argue, occurred in London in 1775 by the Royal Academician Nathaniel Hone. This exhibition is juxtaposed to one that happened in Paris in 1783 at the Salon de la Correspondance, organised by Pahin de La Blancherie in honour of the works of the painter Claude Joseph Vernet. Following these first two retrospectives I examine what prompted the emergence of the retrospective format in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. I argue that the inspiration for the retrospective was a result of the eighteenth century practice of monographic rooms (devoted to a single artist) in public galleries such as the DUsseldorf Gallery and the Vienna Gallery. The thesis further considers the approbation and development of the practice in England and France by looking at how living artists used the retrospective format to advance their reputation and promote their careers together with contemporary attempts by institutions or the state who wished to pay tribute to the productions of an eminent artist. Hence William Blake's 1809 exhibition is considered with the British Institution's commemorative display of Joshua Reynolds's work in 1813; while Gustave Courbet's 1855 show is considered together with the organisation of single-artists' displays on the occasion of the 1855 Exposition Universelle (Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Horace Vernet, Eugene Delacroix and Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps). Exploring a period of roughly a hundred years it becomes apparent that the retrospective, while it helped to portray and celebrate artistic authorship, functioned both as a marketing and sales tool by living artists and as an honorary device by institutions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available