ASECS Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, March 31 - April 3, 2016
Call for Papers: “‘The Delight of the Eye’: Eighteenth-Century Painting and/as Decoration,” panel organized by Yuriko Jackall (National Gallery of Art) and Katherine Brion (Kalamazoo College) at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, March 31–April 3, 2016
Please e-mail proposals for 20-minute papers to Y-jackall at nga.gov AND kbrion at kzoo.edu by September 15, 2015.
In 1747, the critic Étienne La Font de Saint-Yenne lamented that painting of the French school had been divested of its rightful purpose: bringing great deeds of the past to splendid visual life. For his contemporaries, La Font argued, painting had become nothing more than another form of vanity or ornamentation, a “delight of the eye” equated with surface treatments such as mirrors, gilding, paneling, and plasterwork. In the context of this lament, he drew a sharp distinction between history painting (broadly defined as narrative representation with moral and didactic intent) and painting as decoration (associated with pleasure and flattery). Apart from some temporary upsets, this distinction held sway over painting and its reception through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.
The goal of this session is to explore the relationship between painting and decoration in the practice and reception of eighteenth-century art—a relationship that begs to be reexamined, particularly in the light of increasing scholarly interest in later “decorative” impulses. In what contexts was the category of decoration meaningful, and how was it defined? To what extent were site-specificity, the constitution of ensembles, the formal qualities of paintings themselves, and/or other concerns determining factors in the role of painting as decoration? Was “decorative” painting aligned with, or distinguished from, other “decorative” practices and media? Finally, do the answers to these questions dispute, nuance or confirm La Font’s opposition of decoration and edifying representation? Case studies in a variety of fields ranging from architecture to the decorative arts are welcome, as are papers examining the subsequent historical impact of eighteenth-century models of painting and/as decoration.