Among the highlights of this year’s programme are the contributions made by the Research Forum Visitors: the Visiting Professor, Whitney Davis (from the University of California at Berkeley), the Visiting Curator, Chris Fischer (Founder and Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of Old Master Drawings in Copenhagen), and the Visiting Conservator, Elke Oberthaler (from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). While Dr. Fischer worked magic in the new Print Room, transforming little known drawings from the Witt Collection into familiar friends, as described in Joanna Selborne’s article, Professor Davis took his audience on an intellectual journey that traversed over six thousand years, beginning in pre-historic lower Nubia and ending in early twentieth-century Vienna. He did this in seven presentations based on his work on the Archaeologies of the Standpoint.He opened the Friends’ Spring Lectures of Distinguished Teachers with an introduction to the topic, which, as he explained, deals with the way that the standpoints of visual access to works of art have been conceptualized historically in different cultural traditions. His seminar series began with a talk on Prehistoric Palimpsests and Petroglyphic Palindromes and concluded with a tour of the house that Ludwig Wittgenstein built for his sister in Vienna. Intermediate stages included “the end of the world” (apocalypse imagery), “on being short” (Brunelleschi’s invention of linear perspective) and Fonthill Abbey. Under the guidance of Lindy Grant and Peter Stewart, four research assistants were appointed to the Conway Library to explore that archive from the viewpoint of standpoints. Some of their discoveries were presented at a Research Forum workshop lunch on 9 March and more will be examined on 15 June. Inspired by the lectures and by discussions with Whitney, the Research Assistants – M.A. student, Noa Turel and doctoral students, Nicole Lawrence, Rachel Wells and Stuart Whatling – have brought together photographs that reveal what can be learned from the viewpoints of tourist photographs and from photographic campaigns as diverse in subject and standpoint as the Macmillan Commission photographs of Second World War damage and a 1981 Conway series of Chartres cathedral. The Institute now looks forward to the arrival of Elke Oberthaler in May for the first of two visits. During her first two week stay at the Institute in May she will give seminars on fifteenth and sixteenth century Venetian paintings, in conjunction with staff and students from the Courtauld and staff from the National Gallery conservation department. She will also work with students in the Conservation department and Gallery staff, bringing her knowledge of the Vienna collection to the examination of paintings in the Courtauld Gallery. She will return in the autumn, when there will be further workshops on conservation and the history of conservation. The second part of her visit happily coincides with an exhibition in Vienna on Titian and Giorgione, which will include the results of her research on the paintings by Titian in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. She will present that research to a London audience, who may well be inspired to continue the exchange on the topic with a visit to Vienna.

Prof Patricia Rubin
Head of the Research Forum