Gothic Galore

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Slide 1:

The taste for Gothic tales and poems, focusing on themes of magic, terror and romance, was the great popular cultural phenomenon of the late eighteenth century. The images in this show suggest some of the parallels and exchanges between the literary Gothic and the visual arts. A range of artists is displayed here in this presentation.

Slide 2:

International Gothic Mary Magdalene in St. John Cathedral in Torun. Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed , which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century.

Slide 3:

Joseph Wright A Philosopher by Lamplight 1769 Derby Museums and Art Gallery An old man in the costume of a hermit or philosopher contemplates human bones in a lamp-lit cave, while two small men or boys dressed as pilgrims (the shells in the hats identify them as such) approach with trepidation. The exact subject of this painting is uncertain; it may relate to several different literary sources. Wright has been more concerned with creating a sense of weird mystery; note the strange discrepancy of scale between the hermit and the young men.

Slide 4:

John British Dixon after Joshua Reynolds Ugolino 1773 Trustees of The British Museum This print reproduces Reynolds’ painting of the imprisonment of Count Ugolino de Gherardeschi (d.1288), from Dante’s Inferno (1319-21). Thrown into prison after a political intrigue, Ugolino was left to starve along with two of his sons and two grandchildren. The painting represents the moment when he hears the door being permanently sealed, and he is suddenly awakened to his dreadful fate. He will eventually commit a horrid act of cannibalism .

Slide 5:

Joseph Wright Study for 'The Captive King' circa 1772-1773 Pen and wash on paper Derby Museums and Art Gallery This drawing has been linked to a lost painting of ‘Guy de Lusignan in Prison’. The detail of the crucifix leaning against the pillar suggests a setting in the crusades. Guy was a Frankish king, defeated by the Saracens ( middleeastern Muslims) in 1187 and taken prisoner by them. Wright sometimes struggled with perspective; the annotations are by his friend, P.P. Burnett, who he had asked for help in this respect.

Slide 6:

Thomas Ryder, after Joseph Wright The Captive published by John and Josiah Boydell , 1 October 1786 Stipple engraving Derby Museums and Art Gallery This print reproduces a painting of an episode in Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768). The novel comprises the reflections of the sensitive traveller, Yorick . In Paris, threatened with arrest, he reflects upon the terrors of the Bastille, in a section titled ‘The Captive’. By focussing imaginatively on a single, suffering prisoner, Yorick is able to conjure the deepest emotions, which the reader is invited to share.

Slide 7:

John Downman Robert, Duke of Normandy, in Prison 1779 Oil on copper, Yale Center for British Art , New Haven This painting represents a horrid subject from British history. Robert, Duke of Normandy (1054-1134), the eldest son of William the Conqueror, was imprisoned by his own brother, Henry, with whom he had argued, in 1106. He spent the rest of his life incarcerated, dying in Cardiff prison. According to legend, Robert was cruelly blinded by having hot metal bowls pushed into his eyes.

Slide 8:

John Raphael Smith after Henry Fuseli Belisane and Percival under The Enchantment of Urma from The provenzal tale of Kyot published by John Raphael Smith, 25 August 1782 Mezzotint on paper Kunsthaus , Zürich. This print reproduces a lost painting and represents a Gothic scene of Fuseli’s invention. An evil wizard, watches over an imprisoned maiden and an enchanted knight (Percival). The velvety qualities of mezzotint were seen as peculiarly appropriate to Gothic subjects of this sort.

Slide 9:

Thomas Robinson The Hermit of Warkworth 1793 Oil on canvas, Collection of Sir Robert Goff The subject is from Thomas Percy’s poem The Hermit of Warkworth (1771). The Hermit weeps as he tells the tragic tale of Sir Bertram and Isabel to a pair of eloped lovers. In the background, Sir Bertram mourns by the side of Isabel, the women he loved but who died accidentally by his sword. The Hermit’s narrative climaxes with the revelation that he was that ill-fated hero.

Slide 10:

Philip James De Loutherbourg Visitor to a Moonlit Churchyard 1790 Oil on canvas From the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art , New Haven A figure stands in the overgrown ruins of an abbey, contemplating the remnants of an old painting showing the Resurrection. Above the figure of Christ a sundial throws a long moonlight shadow, suggesting the imminence of death and the possibility of Christian salvation. The ruin is identifiable as Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley. This was one of the most-visited tourist sites of the late eighteenth-century, favoured because of its emotive historical associations with the Protestant Reformation.

Slide 11:

Henry Fuseli Huon and Amanda with The Dead Alphonso 1804-1805 Oil on canvas From from The Barrett Collection, Dallas The romantic hero Huon comforts his lover Amanda, when they discover the body of the goodly hermit Alphonso . Fuseli painted this scene as one of a series of twelve canvases commissioned by the publisher Caddell & Davis as illustrations to a new English edition of Christoph Martin Wieland’s epic German poem Oberon (1780). The poem focuses on the adventures of Huon , sent on a mission to a fantasy Baghdad by the emperor Charlemagne.

Slide 12:

Maria Cosway Nightscene : A Woman and Two Children, One Apparently Dead, at Seashore 1800 Brown ink and wash, heightened with white, on paper Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. This drawing, is from a group of designs created by Cosway to illustrate the poem The Wintry Day by Mary Robinson (1758-1800). Robinson’s poem contrasts the fates of the rich and the poor. The latter undergo a variety of Gothic travails, in this case on a ‘bleak and barren heath’.

Slide 13:

Maria Cosway Prison Scene circa 1785-1800 Brown ink and wash, heightened in white, on paper Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor , Lenox and Tilden Foundations. This design also illustrates Mary Robinson’s poem The Wintry Day (1800). It is one of a set of drawings published as prints in 1804. It represents the sad fate of the poor, suffering ‘on the prison’s flinty floor’. The publisher felt he had to apologize for the artist’s exaggerated style: ‘ Mrs Cosway’s designs, it must be admitted, are sometimes eccentric, but it is the eccentricity of genius’.

Slide 14:

Richard Cosway A Nun Surprising a Monk Kissing a Nun in a Church Interior circa 1785-1800 Pencil and watercolour on paper, Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Nuns feature heavily in the erotic literature and art of the eighteenth century. For readers in the Protestant world, the rituals and institutions of Catholicism were as titillating as much as they were morally reprehensible. Gothic novelists made the most of such associations by returning repeatedly to medieval Italy or Spain as a setting. That’s all friends.

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