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Title: Relations of likeness : portraiture and life-writing in England, 1660-1790
Author: Pahl, Kerstin Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 7223 4666
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis treats the interplay between English portraiture and life-writing between 1660 and 1790. It analyses how and to what ends they did engage with each other in theory, practice, and as concepts and it argues that the mutually complementary use of information via different media had a strong bearing on aesthetics. At first glance, the similarity of visual portraits and literary Lives appears to be self-evident. Portraits show people, biography describes them. Both draw on a pool of information that they transform into a work according to their respective aesthetics. Portraiture's and biography's evolution often evolved concurrently, indicating that a heightened interest in the individual is thought to express itself across the artistic field and also often operated with almost identical terminology. The closeness in language reflected the multiple ways in which portraiture and life-writing made use of and referred to each other to heighten their respective effect. Constituting a multi-modal approach, portraiture and life-writing relied on quantity, illustration, and complementation. They were understood as relational works that put forward a thematic core that could be endlessly expanded. The concept of likeness plays a major role in this thesis. Likeness never implied identity, but likeliness, proposing that the presentation was a credible approximation of the original. Being able to stand alone, even to acquire authority over its original, makes likeness unique. By tracing its historic understanding and negotiation, my aim is to historicise the concept of likeness, considering it the joint between visual portraiture and life-writing. Proceeding chronologically, this study covers a period of 120 years, roughly between the 1660s and the 1790s. It starts at the time when issues of classification of genres became prevalent in England and ending when their interaction itself had become subject to theorisation. the approach of each chapter is informed by specific themes, and all chapters attempt to embed aesthetics within their social realm. The introduction outlines the topic, methodology, the material and provides an overview of the current state of research. Chapter 1 will address the period of the late seventeenth century, c. 1660s to 1690s, focusing particularly on the concept of worthiness, meaning the social value portraiture or biography assigned to and argued for their subjects. Chapter 2 is set at around 1700, more precisely between 1683, the publication of Dryden's translation of Plutarch's Lives, and 1719, when all three treatises on art by Jonathan Richardson's had appeared. This section deals with emerging methodology, referentiality, and likeness. It explores comparative methods ('paralleling') and the increasing orientation of art and literary theories towards contemporaneity. Chapter 3 covers the early eighteenth century, c. 1710s to 1740s, and explores the relationship between subject, work, and the public sphere, and strategies of image-making. Chapter 4 ranges from 1740s to 1750s, examining narrative methods in visual and literary life-writing, especially focusing Samuel Johnson, William Hogarth, and James Harris and the role that time as moment, length, and duration played in aesthetic thinking. Covering the period from c. 1750s to 1780s, chapter 5 picks up the thread of chapter 4 by analysing how, in occasional genres, aesthetics and ethics concur in their embodiment by people. Finally, chapter 6 brings the several threads of the other chapters together to show how the coexistent and interacting streams of portraiture and biography were consciously merged, implying that one should no longer exist without the other. The conclusion summarises the arguments and discusses how aesthetics and information work as complements.
Supervisor: Turner, Mark ; Brant, Clare Victoria Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available