Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series

Histories in Transition

Aspiring to the Condition of Music

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

12.00 – 14.00, Research Forum South Room

mother and daughter with string instrument
Frederic Leighton, The Music Lesson, 1877. Courtesy Guildhall Art Gallery.

Speaker(s): Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Dr Ayla Lepine

Walter Pater's dictum of 1877 'all art constantly aspires to the condition of music' is regularly cited with regard to the Aesthetic Movement. Music is invoked as a metaphor for painting in which formal qualities outweigh or replace altogether narrative concerns. The imbrication of music into every aspect of Victorian Aestheticism was, however, far more complex than this would suggest. This seminar will examine the role of music in British culture of the 1860s and '70s, referring to actual performers, performances and works, critical and musicological discourse, and the attempts of painters such as Frederic Leighton, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Albert Moore to create what one might describe as a musical visuality in addition to a musical iconography. Gilbert and Sullivan's 'entirely Aesthetic' operetta, Patience, provides the perfect foil for Aestheticism's nostrums; a musical satire on art aspiring to the condition of music.

Tim Barringer is Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. His books include Reading the Pre-Raphaelites (1999; new edition, 2012) and Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain (2005). With colleagues he co-authored American Sublime, and co-edited Art and the British Empire and Art and Emancipation in Jamaica. He is currently completing a book Broken Pastoral: Art and Music in Britain, Gothic Revival to Punk Rock and is co-curator of Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (Tate, 2012). Co-edited volumes in preparation include Victorian Jamaica and Panoramic Vistas.

This seminar is part of the 2012 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series which explores intersections between modernity and historicism worldwide. It extends and enriches the Research Forum project Revival: Utopia, Identity, Memory and interacts with the provocative Research Forum theme, ‘The Quick and the Dead’. Spanning art, architecture and design across America, Europe and Asia from the nineteenth century to the present, each lecture demonstrates the allure and the value of the past in forming challenging responses to new circumstances. Interrogating the nature of revival, historicism and transnationalism, the series engages with nature and artifice, ritual and memory, and the flexible meanings of materials, images and structures that simultaneously inhabit traditional and innovative territory.

Sponsored by the FM Kirby Foundation and The Prince's Foundation

Traditionally sponsored by the F M Kirby Foundation, this year the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is also sponsored by The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community; Transforming Lives through Engaging, Educating and Empowering People.

“The Prince's Foundation believes that sustainably planned, built and maintained communities improve the quality of life of everyone who’s part of them. They help us both live better at a local level and start dealing with the broader global challenges of urbanisation and climate change. Our goal is a future where all of us can take part in making our communities more sustainable. We're working with everyone from local residents groups to governments to make it happen.” See

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