Public Lectures

The Image of Restoration Science: The Frontispiece to Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society (1667)

History of the Royal Society

Professor Michael Hunter
Monday 13 April 2015
6:30-8pm

CCANESA Boardroom
Level 4, Madsen Building
Unversity of Sydney


Wenceslaus Hollar’s print celebrating Charles II as founder of the Royal Society, based on a design by John Evelyn, has been much reproduced but little studied. In fact, though published in 1667 as the frontispiece to Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society, it had not originally been intended for that book but for an apologetic work by the Somerset virtuoso, John Beale, which proved abortive: I showed this in 1981 and I will recapitulate these findings in the course of my lecture. But I will also examine the image in its own right as a visual statement of the core values of the Royal Society in its early years, analysing its debt to earlier exemplars and considering the significance of its various components. It turns out that, through its design, Evelyn may have been trying to align the society as much with the legacy of Raphael as with that of Copernicus, while the scientific instruments that are profusely depicted provide evidence about the scientific and technological innovations with which the society wished to associate itself, from astronomy to chymistry and from meteorology to navigation – although some puzzles remain as to just what is and what is not included, and why. I will also investigate aspects of the print’s publishing history, and particularly the extent to which choice copies of it were produced, probably at the behest of Evelyn, which themselves illustrate how Baconianism and connoisseurship interconnected in the values of the society’s early Fellows.

hunter

Michael Hunter is Emeritus Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy. For many years his chief preoccupation was Robert Boyle: he is the principal editor of Boyle’s Works (with Edward B. Davis, 14 volumes, 1999-2000), Correspondence (with Antonio Clerucuzio and Lawrence M. Principe, 6 vols., 2001) and workdiaries (with Charles Littleton, available online at www.livesandletters.ac.uk/wd/index.html). He is also the author of Boyle: Between God and Science (2009), which won both the Samuel Pepys Award and the Roy G. Neville Prize in 2011, while his Boyle Studies: Aspects of the Life and Thought of Robert Boyle will be published by Ashgate in 2015. His numerous other books deal with various aspects of seventeenth-century intellectual history, including the early Royal Society and its milieu. Currently, he is working on a full analysis of the frontispiece to Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society (1667), a study which also reflects the concern with the visual culture of the period that led him to set up the website, British Printed Images to 1700 (www.bpi1700.org.uk). A further interest is in attitudes to magic in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, on which he has published various papers as well as The Occult Laboratory (2001), an edition of early accounts of second sight in Scotland.


Past 2015 Public Lectures

Chinoiserie and Japonisme: Continuity or Rupture

East-West Dialogue

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American, 18641748, Oil on wood panel, 19.7 x 27 in.

Professor Petra Chu
Tuesday 10 March 2015
6-7pm

Law School LT 101
Sydney Law School
The University of Sydney


In traditional narratives of the Western engagement with Far-Eastern art, eighteenth-century Chinoiserie and nineteenth-century Japonism are seen as different episodes, separated not only by time but also by degree of intensity and understanding. Michael Sullivan, one of the originators of this narrative (The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art, 1973), contrast the “flirtation with the Orient” of Chinoiserie with the “real understanding of Oriental art” that, he argues, began during the last third of the nineteenth century with Japonisme and culminated in the twentieth century in the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Franz Kine. Chinoiserie had to degenerate and die, following Sullivan, before Japonisme could be born. For Sullivan’s narrative, I hope to substitute a more nuanced and complex one that underplays rupture but acknowledges that attitudes towards the Far East and Far-Eastern art evolved and changed in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, based on, among other factors, political developments and changing international relations, altering possibilities of Asian travel; evolving patters of collecting; and the concept of the “period eye.”

Co-hosted with Sydney Ideas and the China Studies Centre.

Prof Chu


Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Professor of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies in Museum Professions at Seton Hall University, is a renowned expert on nineteenth-century European art. She has published several books on Gustave Courbet and is author of the leading survey of nineteenth-century European art. She is visiting Australia as the recipient of an International Research Collaboration Award from the University of Sydney, and will be based in Sydney from 21 February and 21 March 2015, working with Professor Jennifer Milam on a project entitled ‘The Other Orient’.


Matisse and the Near East

Professor Petra Chu
Saturday 14 March 2015
2pm

National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne


Co-sponsored by Sydney Intellectual History Network (SIHN).

In the course of his long career, the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) repeatedly looked at non-Western art for inspiration. Japanese prints, Persian and Indian miniatures, Byzantine icons and mosaics, Chinese brush paintings and art theory, and textiles from across the world, all inspired him at one time or another. Among these varied exotic art forms, Far-Eastern art - Chinese and Japanese - played a unique part in the artist’s career, one coming at the beginning, the other at the end of his career. Both Chinese and Japanese art affected his approach to, and his thinking about, art. But while Japanese art shocked him into an entirely new way of thinking about the relation between representation and reality, Chinese art and, especially art theory, confirmed ideas about art that he had developed and nurtured in the course of fifty years.

Prof Chu


Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Professor of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies in Museum Professions at Seton Hall University, is a renowned expert on nineteenth-century European art. She has published several books on Gustave Courbet and is author of the leading survey of nineteenth-century European art. She is visiting Australia as the recipient of an International Research Collaboration Award from the University of Sydney, and will be based in Sydney from 21 February and 21 March 2015, working with Professor Jennifer Milam on a project entitled ‘The Other Orient’.