A new series of talks from University of Bristol’s graduating MA History of Art students. Join our ‘new faces’ for an exploration into a diverse range of topics from Renaissance portraiture to a journey from the Gin palaces of the Victorian period to the Festival of Britain’s Pub of The Future Competition. For more information on topics presented at each session please check the RWA website.

Evening One

Public Exposure: The Justifications of Breasts in Renaissance Portraiture, Rhian Addison

The breast in Renaissance portraiture is an allegorical tool that can determine an intended cultural message and the public personality of the sitter. The exposure of the breast in chaste and modest societies raises questions as to how this could be justified with the publicly recognisable faces of women. Constructs of the religious, maternal, cosmetic and erotic breast can be applied to portraits to understand multiple justifications and the contemporary reception of the image that may not be applicable today. Comparable images and contemporary information assist an understanding of the role of the breast in Renaissance portraiture based upon the social expectations of the time.

The Evolving Function of the Window in the Modern Period, Hatty Davidson

The turn of the century saw a huge change within the art world; artists were no longer attempting to mimic literary devices in their work, instead they were striving to promote visual art as an autonomous and independent creative outlet. With this new independence came a new way of looking at the many common motifs found in painting. However, the motif of the window was the one that would come symbolise a new mode of vision for the artists of the modern period. This lecture will explore the work of Henri Matisse and discuss the different ways in which he employs the window to signify this new change in art.

The shifting reception of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII and the art it inspired, Luke Litynski-Readings

William Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s Henry VIII was a cornerstone of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theatrical repertoire. Yet today we know little about it and seldom see it performed. I ask why historical audiences and critics held particular Shakespeare plays in better (and worse) regard than we do today. I also ask how we can use artworks to understand and challenge our ideas of historical reception, particularly with respect to Henry VIII and the diverse paintings inspired by it.

'No Gin Palace for Morrison's Tonic', Jessica Hoare

When George Orwell wrote that English identity was ‘bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes’, perhaps one thing omitted from his evocative description was the pub - an irrefutable part of the national landscape. This presentation journeys from the Gin palaces of the Victorian period to the Festival of Britain’s Pub of The Future Competition, exploring some of the features and fittings that make the pub a national treasure.

Evening Two

Pre-Raphaelite Encounters: An Exploration into the Marlborough College Chapel Paintings by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Lesley-Anne Faulkner

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829 – 1908) remains a largely undocumented associate of the Pre-Raphaelites. Despite being proclaimed as Edward Burne-Jones' most significant follower, he continues to elude serious academic attention.

Stanhope's major contribution to late Pre-Raphaelite art is his series of biblical paintings, which remain in situ at Marlborough College Chapel, in Wiltshire. This paper considers the chapel paintings aesthetic encounters with past and present masters, e.g. Fra Angelico and Masaccio, Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Secondly, the paper considers his paintings as an attempt to invert the Muscular Christianity within the college. Does Stanhope's reputation deserve redress?

A Paradox of Power: The Contaminating Look and Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa, Sian White

Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa presents us with a paradox. According to mythology, one look at her face would result in the seer’s transformation into stone, but clearly this is not the case when we confront a painted depiction. With no metamorphosis taking place, is it possible that this image may still hold something of a power over us? What risks do we take when meeting the gaze of the Gorgon? To what extent does the image hold the viewer hostage?

The Heber Mardon Collection - a local Victorian treasure trove, Nadia Nuaimi

Heber Mardon (1840-1925) was a prominent Victorian businessman whose Bristol-based printing and packaging company was an integral part of Imperial Tobacco. His private passion, however, was the collection of historical art and artefacts, predominantly prints and drawings. Prior to his death, he made a gift of almost 5,000 prints and drawings to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The Bristol collection can be roughly divided into two main areas: prints and drawings related to the great masters and those related to the history and topography of Bristol. With regard to this latter category, Mr Mardon also donated 14 volumes of grangerised albums veritably overflowing with images of Bristol's 'Past and Present'. Most of this collection has rarely been seen by the public and is, therefore, one of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery's true hidden treasures.

Wednesday 26 September and 3 October, 6.30-8.30pm

Admission prices