riha lecture 2012

A Phenomenology of Vision: the Self-Portraits of Jean-Étienne Liotard

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Self portrait of Jean-Etienne Leotard: half-length, seated on a chair, with his left hand raised to his chin
Jean-Étienne Liotard, Self portrait; half-length, seated on a chair, with his left hand raised to his chin; proof before all letters. c.1778-80. Roulette and engraving over mezzotint. © The Trustees of the British Museum
.Speaker(s): Dr Hannah Williams (Junior Research Fellow in History of Art, St John's College Oxford)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott

Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789) had one of the most sustained engagements with self-portraiture of all artists in eighteenth-century Europe. The self-portraits he produced were not only numerous, but also often perplexing in their repetitions and unusual in their approach to the artist’s body. Liotard is best-known now, as he was in his lifetime, as the ‘Turkish Painter’, a reference to the cross-cultural look he developed during his travels to the East and continued to cultivate as an itinerant portraitist working through the capital cities of Europe. Accordingly there has been an art-historical tendency to read Liotard’s self-portraits biographically, as pictures of this extraordinary life or as tools of self-promotion to boost his career. This lecture proposes an alternative to biography, approaching Liotard’s self-portraits instead through the lens of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s writings on art and vision and through Liotard’s own writings on his painting practice. In so doing, this lecture presents an interpretation of these objects as artistic experiments relating to the fundamental phenomenological problem of seeing and representing the lived-body.

Hannah Williams is Junior Research Fellow in Art History at St John’s College, University of Oxford. She is completing a book on artists’ portraits and self-portraits in eighteenth-century France drawn from doctoral research completed at the Courtauld Institute of Art. The manuscript was recently awarded the Prix Marianne Roland Michel 2011 from the Institut de France.

This is the third annual lecture associated with the RIHA Journal, the Journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, launched in 2010. It represents an ambitious effort to coordinate and support the multiple approaches to art historical research in RIHA’s many member countries through the production of a freely accessible online journal. The Journal makes use of local editors from all the member institutes, including The Courtauld, to peer review and publish outstanding articles in this field. Managed by Dr Regina Wenninger in the Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in Munich, the Journal is supported by the German government in the form of specially adapted ‘Plone’ software for multi-site editing. For further information see http://www.riha-journal.org

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