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"Newly Invented Original Paintings": Philip Mercier and the Origins of the...
Tue 13 June 2017, 12:30 – 14:00 BST
Fellows Lunch by John Chu (Assistant Curator of Pictures and Sculpture for the National Trust at Leeds Museums and Postdoctoral Fellow at Paul Mellon Centre)
The Huguenot painter Philip Mercier (1689-1760) was at the vanguard of one of the most intriguing of eighteenth-century British art forms: the fancy picture. Playful in tone and fluttering in execution, Mercier's fancies typically depict a none-too-serious world of modern men, women and children living a life of fashion, pleasure and the senses. Though manifestly trivial in theme and decorative by design, these are often nonetheless rather imposing works of art, presenting their life-scale characters close to the viewer so as to evoke a palpable sense of presence. Mercier's role in adapting Continental prototypes of this kind of picture for the diversifying and growing British art market has long been recognised. This talk offers an enhanced version of this origin story, setting the the imagery of this first wave of fancies in the context of extraordinary expansion in the British consumption of fine and modish goods of all kinds. It also takes a close look at how, as a maker of novel luxuries, Mercier both profited by and fell victim to the very world of fleeting fashions that he took as his primary subject, exposing the tribulations that lurked beneath the surface of the British fancy picture during its light-hearted beginnings.
The Fellows Lunch Series is a series of free lunchtime research talks given by recipients of Paul Mellon Centre Fellowships. All are welcome but please book a ticket in advance.