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She, together with Wilson, thus suggested that changes in the artistic depiction of childhood were more likely to be related to technical improvements and evolutions within art as a self-enclosed discipline than to changes in the common perception of infancy.38 In their tum, art historians have, since the 1970s at least, rarely examined pictorial imagery without some reference to its contemporary context, taking up T.J.Clark's demand for a discipline that accommodates the social world in which the visual is produced. 39 For example, Michael Baxandall investigated the art of fifteenthM. Baxandall. Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Oxford, 1988). p.152 38 Wilson. 'The Infancy of the History of Childhood'. pp.140. 145. 146; Pollock, Forgotten Children. p.46 39 See A.L. Rees and F. Borzello, 'Introduction'. in A.L. Rees and F. Borzello, eds., The New Art History (London, 1986), p.3. Early art historical texts to reveal this move away from purely formal analysis include Frederick Antal. Florentine Painting and its Social Background (London. 1948), which examines Florentine painting from the perspective of its economic. political and social location.
See also Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance century Italy through such documents as letters and contracts, using them to argue that visual equipment developed in everyday society, from the perception of colours and shapes to the value placed upon skills such as evaluating ratios and volumes, influenced the creation of artistic forms. As a result, he concluded that "(used properly)... pictures become documents as valid as any charter or parish roll."40 Such arguments constituted a much needed emendatory to what used to seem a dominant formalist art historiography; demystifying paintings, breaking through their seemingly innocent autonomy and going some way to ridding the discipline of remnants of the nineteenth-century romantic view of the artist as a super-social genius. However, the implicit danger of such an approach is an overly straightforward transformation of the aesthetic into the epistemological. Naomi Tadmor's complaint that "literary scholars can create great monolithic blocks, and produce them as 'background' explaining the 'reality' in which works and genres were created" is equally applicable to art historians. 41 Such dangers have been comprehended in recent work. Scholars such as Marcia Pointon have underlined the intrinsically "systematic and ideological" nature of representation, the constraints and agendas that render art far from a direct reflection of real life. 42 Others such as A.L. Rees and F. Borzello have pointed out that 'New Art History', in emphasising "the social aspect" of the (London, San Francisco, Hagerstown and New York, 1972) and Erwin Panofsky, 'Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art', in E. Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts (Harmondsworth, 1970), p.49: "Intrinsic meaning or content [of a picture]... is apprehended by ascertaining those underlying principles which reveal the basic attitude of a nation, a period, a class, a religious or philosophical persuasion - qualifies by one personality and condensed into one work."
40 Baxandall, Painting and Experience, p.152 41 Tadmor, 'Family' and 'Friend' in Pamela', p.291 42 M. Pointon, Strategies for ShOWing: Women, Possession, and Representation in English Visual Culture 1665-1800 (Oxford, 1997), p.2. Also, see M. Pointon, Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven and London, 1993) visual, can "ignore(s) the qualities which make it art rather than something else."43 Ludmilla 10rdanova has similarly re-emphasised the peculiarities of the pictorial as a source material. Pointing out that "we can never take for granted the independent 'reality' of whatever it is that a painting depicts," she emphasises the problems of establishing a clear relationship between signifier and signified, asserting the
complexity of processes that produce artistic change:
These involve, at the very least, the role of 'style', shifting artistic conventions, the market, patronage, and 'taste', not to speak of the more mundane material considerations that play a large role in the nature of the end product such as the division of labour and customary working practices within a workshop... the size of the picture... the number of sittings available,
* * * * * The debate over the relationship between the pictorial and the supposedly 'real' has resulted in a variety of approaches by the few art historians who have tackled the imagery of the family as a distinct subject, as a body of evidence for a particular socio-historical phenomenon rather than, as is more common, in the context of catalogued collections and artists oeuvres. Desmond Shawe-Taylor's The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society was very much in the school 43 Rees and Borzello, 'Introduction', p.8 44 L. Jordanova, 'New Worlds for Children in the Eighteenth Century: Problems of Historical Interpretation', History a/the Human Sciences 3, 1 (Feb 1990), pp.75-6 of the 1970s historians, arguing for a decisive shift in the nature and conditions of the family. He enumerated the disparities between works such as Thomas Gainsborough's Mr and Mrs Andrews of 1748/9 (fig.3) and his The Morning Walk: Mr and Mrs Hallett of 1785 (fig.4) to evidence the displacement of a domestic ideal in which the wife was subordinate, merely one aspect of her husband's property, by the 'companionate marriage' with its emphasis on love and affection. He demonstrated a similar development in a comparison of Sir Joshua Reynolds's Elizabeth, Countess of Pembroke with her Son, George, Lord Herbert of 1764/5 (fig.5) and his Lady Cockburn and her Three Eldest Sons of 1773 (fig.6). Whilst Lady Pembroke is moving aside to let the eldest son and heir take the stage, subordinating herself to concerns of primogeniture, Lady Cockburn represents a new ideal of affectionate motherhood and a new appreciation of the distinctive characteristics of childhood.
However, the parallels between his developmental model and that of historians such as Stone seem to be entirely implicit. Whilst Robin Simon praised his "brilliant insights into the culture from which these images emerged," Shawe-Taylor actually only cited three secondary historical texts in his bibliography, none of them a major work on the period. 45 Shawe-Taylor's view of a transition in marital portraiture and his time scale for change was echoed by Shelley M. Bennett in her analysis of Thomas and Isabel Crathorne by Francis Cotes (1767, Huntington Art Gallery): "Beginning in about 1760, double marriage portraits display a new focus on affectionate spousal
Disappearing Facts and the Growth of Factionalism'. Apollo 134 (December 1991), p.373. ShaweTaylor cites D. Jarrett. Britain, 1688-1815 (London. 1965). D. Jarrett. England in the Age of Hogarth (London. 1974) and B. Willey. The Eighteenth-Century Background (1940) (London and New York.
1986) relationships, in contrast to the stiff, impersonal informality of earlier double portraits."46 Similarly, both J.C. Steward and Alistair Smart have reinforced the idea that images of offspring became less formal as the century progressed. 47 Steward additionally repeated the idea of a shift away from patriarchal rigidity to a newly companionate family. He claimed that images such as William Hogarth's The Cholmondeley Family of 1732 (fig.7) demonstrate a new desire to undermine hierarchical structures. A young boy is about to step onto a pile of precariously balanced books whilst his brother rushes towards him, possibly in an attempt to prevent the imminent disaster. This vigour is in striking contrast to the formality of the rest of the family and thus the children can be seen as sabotaging their elders' ceremoniousness. Steward then argued that such juvenile disruption was brought within the remit of the larger family group in later portraits such as Sir Joshua Reynolds's The Marlborough Family of 1777/9 (fig.S) in which playful and boisterous infants subtly undermine the authority communicated by their father, further subverted by the dominance and central location of his wife. 48 Marcia Pointon, on the other hand, whilst also noting developments and
methodological path to gender historians such as Okin. Rather than the new companionate ethos proposed by Shawe-Taylor and Steward, she posited an underlying, continuous tradition of patriarchy. She argued that women and children S.M. Bennett. 'A Muse of Art in the Huntington Collection'. in G. Sutherland. ed.• British Art 1740-1820: Essays in Honor of Robert R. Wark (San Marino. California. 1992). pp.73-4 47 J.e. Steward. The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood 1730-1830 (Berkeley. 1995). especially pp.ll. 16-21; A. Smart. Allan Ramsay 1713-1784 (Edinburgh. 1992).
pp.18-9 48 Steward. The New Child, pp.19-23. 104-5 form a sub-genre in art, in which they are locked within an infantilised state, never the commissioners of portraits as having no property of their own, but always loaded with the ideals and fantasies of the patriarch. Thus, images of families are subsumed within universalist discourses of gender and age so that power structures are created: maturity privileged over youth, masculinity over femininity.49 It is interesting to compare her analysis of Johann Zoffany's Queen Charlotte with her Two Eldest Sons of 1764 (fig.9) with that of Steward. The latter claims: "It is significant that the King, the actual source of power, is not depicted, allowing the viewer to focus on the family unit without reference to the monarch's authority as is appropriate to a fundamentally private form of painting."50 Pointon, however, argues that the father is by no means missing in terms of the dynamics of the image and uses the analogy of the will as a document in which the source of power is absent, but dictates privileges and succession. The painting, and the objects and people depicted therein, are reliant on the power and property of the omnipotent head of the household. Thus, she elucidates discourses of inheritance and succession instead of discourses of affectiveness and intimacy.51 Shearer West has also expressed doubts about the advent of a private and domestic ethos in the eighteenth-century portrait, emphasising the power and display implicit in such representations. She has denied that the early conversation piece substantiates Aries's theory that a public and essentially sociable and communal world gave way to inward-looking domesticity, outlining the various ways in which the family was still regarded as a public institution in the early eighteenth century. Rather, 49 Pointon. Hanging the Head. chapters 6 and 7 50 Steward. The New Child, p.23 51 Pointon. Hanging the Head, pp.162-8 she sees the genre as preoccupied with affinning familial continuity in a period of demographic crisis (which argument will be more thoroughly explored in chapter five).52 However, she concludes with a brief survey of developments in the later eighteenth century. As the crisis in birth rates subsided, portraiture came to concentrate on the glorification of the maternal relationship, providing entertainment and lUxury for its viewers rather than laying claim to tenuous genealogical successions. 53 * * * * * In this study, I wish firstly to argue that it is only in a few cases that an elision of the relationships as represented in a family portrait and those as lived by the sitters can even be attempted. The artist would usually only have been able to attain limited understanding and even knowledge of such realities in the few sittings necessary to paint a portrait. 54 Indeed, the subjects of a family portrait would often not be painted at the same time, but would rather be added to the canvas in separate sittings, depending on when they were available. 55 It is only in the case of portraitists such as 52 Chapter 5. pp.228-32 53 S. West. 'The Public Nature of Private Life: The Conversation Piece and the Fragmented Family'. British Journalfor Eighteenth-Century Studies 18.2 (Autumn 1995). pp.152-171 54 Indeed. many portraitists only painted the heads of sitters and employed wig painters.
specialists in drapery and landscape artists to complete their paintings. See D. Mannings. 'At the Portrait Painter's: How the Painters of the Eighteenth Century Conducted their Studios and Sittings'.
27 (May 1977). p.280; D. Shawe-Taylor.
History Today The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society (London. 1990). p.ll 55 For example. Georgiana. Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter sat to Reynolds for their portrait. exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1786. in only one mutual sitting (fig. 10). His sitters book for 1784 (copy in the Heinz Archive. National Portrait Gallery) records appointments for the Duchess Gainsborough, not only moving in distinguished social circles and thus personally acquainted with many of his patrons, but also bold enough to express sitters' characteristics and even idiosyncrasies in their portraits, that such a comparison can even be attempted. 56 The gap between the depicted and the lived is further suggested by the remarkable homogeneity of the large body of family portraits from this period, a homogeneity that will become increasingly apparent throughout this dissertation. To suggest that all those represented similarly conducted themselves similarly would be problematic to say the least. As noted by such historians as Keith Wrightson, written evidence as to everyday thoughts and behaviour rather presents a wealth of individual situations and particularities. 57 It is therefore fallacious to assume that an increase in portrayed affection in the family is indicative of an increase in felt affection. In the same way that it is a mistake to seek 'modem' expressions of love and sentiment in eighteenth-century diaries and letters, so it is misleading to seek the representation of such expressions in portraits of the period. Due to an inevitable discrepancy between cultural codes, there is an unavoidable disparity between the contemporary viewer's comprehension and that which the eighteenth-century artist and patron thought they were communicating. Of course, such breakdown is a recurrent problem in any fonn of historical inquiry, but it is particularly pertinent with regard to a phenomenon such as the family which, to on the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th July and for her daughter on the 8th, 13th and 31st of July and on the 3rd of August.