Yale Center for British Art Announces 2009 Paul Mellon Lecture Series

The 2009 Paul Mellon Lecture series, titled “Pen and Pencil: Writing and Painting in England, 1750–1850,” will be presented April 14–28, by Duncan Robinson, master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge and former director of the Yale Center for British Art.

The 2009 Paul Mellon Lecture series, titled “Pen and Pencil: Writing and Painting in England, 1750–1850,” will be presented April 14–28, by Duncan Robinson, master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge and former director of the Yale Center for British Art.

Free and open to the public, all lectures in the series take place over the course of two weeks at 5:30 p.m. in the lecture hall of the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel Street.

The lectures will show the importance of literature in the development of the visual arts in Britain. Organized thematically around a succession of great British artists, this series examines the interrelationship of poetry and art in the18th and 19th centuries as perceived and visually interpreted by William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and William Blake. This is the eighth time the series has been presented. The talks are given biennially by an invited specialist in British art, and are given first at the National Gallery, London, and again at the Yale Center for British Art.

The following is a list of the talks in this year’s series:

April 14
“Subjects I consider’d as writers do.”—William Hogarth
This lecture will focus on Hogarth and the stage. It will also examine the extent to which his “modern moral subjects” paved the way for the narrative tradition that flourished in English painting during the 19th century.

April 16
“He can never be a great artist who is grossly illiterate.”—Joshua Reynolds
This lecture will examine the literary career of Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, concentrating on the “discourses,” or lectures, he gave there, the reflection of his ideas in his own painting, and their subsequent impact on his contemporaries.

April 21
“From the window I am writing I see all those sweet fields …”—John Constable
This lecture will concentrate on the least formal of literary genres, the private letter. Both Gainsborough and Constable were frequent letter writers, and their missives often shed light on their practice as painters.

April 23
“Painting and poetry reflect and heighten each other’s beauties.” —J. M. W. Turner
This lecture will demonstrate the importance Turner attached to poetry as a “sister art” of painting, his frequent quotations from the poets, and his own attempts at verse.

April 28
“I dare not pretend to be anything other than the Secretary; the Authors are in Eternity.”—William Blake
For Blake, pen and pencil were interchangeable. This lecture will examine his achievement and the legacy of his “Illuminated Books.”

Duncan Robinson
Robinson has a long association with Yale, beginning with a Mellon Fellowship in 1965. He was appointed assistant keeper of paintings and drawings at the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1969 and keeper in 1976. Robinson returned to Yale in 1981 as both director of the Yale Center for British Art and chief executive officer of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. In 1995, he returned to Cambridge to become the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, from which he retired in December 2007. He became master of Magdalene College in 2005. He is also chair of the Henry Moore Foundation and a trustee for several organizations, including the Royal Collection.

Yale Center for British Art
Presented to the University by Paul Mellon (Class of 1929), the Yale Center for British
Art houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside the
United Kingdom. The collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, rare books and manuscripts reflects the development of British art, life and thought from the Elizabethan period onward. The center offers a year-round schedule of exhibitions and educational programs. It also provides numerous opportunities for scholarly research. Academic resources include the reference library, conservation laboratories and study room for examining works on paper from the collection. An affiliated institution in London, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, awards grants and fellowships, publishes academic titles, and sponsors Yale’s first credit-granting undergraduate study abroad program, Yale-in-London.

For more information, contact Amy McDonald: 203 432-2853 amy.mcdonald@yale.edu or Ricardo Sandoval 203 436-3429 ricardo.sandoval@yale.edu.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345