Portraiture and the British Naval Officer, c.1740-1805

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Art, Media and American Studies

Abstract

British naval officers were key political, social and cultural figures during the eighteenth century, and their portraits have much to tell us about that context. The period addressed by the project saw profound changes in the Royal Navy as an institution including through the increased regulation of officers' education, appointment, progression, dress, conduct and rewards. This period also saw a dramatic expansion in the market for portraits in Britain as, thanks to new forms of status and wealth, a growing number of artists were called on to depict a wider group of potential sitters, including many members of the 'new' professions such as naval officers. For these individuals, portraits seem to have confirmed corporate belonging and adherence to institutional codes whilst also distinguishing the sitter from others, as officers and would-be officers sought to highlight their potential for the bold confident leadership sought within the Navy's fluid ranks. In turn, portraitists seem to have been pressed both to signify belonging and to innovate so that their sitters' images were sufficiently distinctive as officerial portraits and as works of art within a crowded art world. This spiral of imperial, institutional and artistic competition affected the practice and forms of portraiture throughout this period, and provides the underlying dynamic for the project in tandem with a broader concern to trace these portraits' historical reception/significance.

The research questions raised by this project will be identified by the student in discussion with the supervisor(s) along with the case studies through which those questions will be addressed. The questions, approach and interpretation will be broadly art-historical, that is, concerned with the production, reception, dissemination and significance of the works in question within their contemporary context, with sitters' biographies playing an informing role. The case studies will be largely focused on artworks (paintings and prints) from the two Heritage Organisations, which between them hold an extraordinary array of naval officer portraits from the period.

While pursuing their PhD research, the student will contribute to relevant collections-related research and events within the two Heritage Organisations, including assisting with public programmes relating to the new display of naval portraits within the Queen's House, Greenwich, in 2016; producing work on key portraits for authored publication on the NMM's collections website, and developing a digital exhibition or slide show on some aspect of the NPG's naval portraiture.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership 
Organisation National Maritime Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Including paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture, the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) hold in excess of two thousand portraits of naval officers dating from the period covered by this study. This project consolidates and extends knowledge within both institutions of specific works with their respective collections and creates a more contextualised understanding of the wider genre to which these works belong. In so doing, it also highlights direct and indirect links between the two collections. The doctoral thesis will be the primary vehicle through which these contributions are made; copies of the completed thesis will be made available to all partner institutions. The research resulting from this award will also be used to produce two open-access online resources intended for a general audience, to be hosted on the NPG website. These resources will combine portraits from the NPG and portraits and other objects from the NMM in order to tell stories that neither collection could tell on its own. Specific contributions to the NMM have included a one-hour staff research seminar, multiple public gallery talks and contributions to the Maritime History and Culture Seminar series, organised by the Museum at the Institute of Historical Research. In May 2018, I will also contribute to the NPG's research seminar series. Informal advice on public enquiries related to naval portraits has also been provided at both institutions.
Collaborator Contribution Both the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) are represented on the collaborative doctoral project's supervisory team, the former by Christine Riding and the latter by Dr Lucy Peltz. These individuals provide formal and informal supervision on a one-to-one basis and in joint supervisory meetings with the primary academic supervisor. On an approved discretionary basis, the NMM provides expenses of £1000 per annum (£3000 in total over the duration of the award) to cover the costs of travel, accommodation, conference fees and other activity directly related to the research project. It also grants access to desk space and office facilities in the Research and Curatorial Department at the NMM (including but not limited to printing, photocopying, scanning and other IT support, plus free access to electronic journals and resources to which the Museum subscribes). There is provision for in-house training in relevant skills, such as object handling and use of collections management software. In-kind benefits also include free admission to NMM conferences and an NMM staff pass, which grants free access to exhibitions at the NMM and a number of other major museums and discounts in NMM shops and cafés. The project is also supported by the broader research community at the NMM through formal and informal discussions with curators, research fellows and other students. The NPG provides access to desk space (on a hot-desk basis) and to other office facilities, as well as an NPG staff pass. Professional training is available through the Curatorial Training Programme and informal advice is provided by the Gallery's research community of curators, fellows and students. Use of on-site resources, such as the Heinz Archive and Library, is also offered.
Impact Outputs or outcomes resulting from this collaboration include: doctoral thesis; open-access online resources, hosted on the NPG website; research seminars presented at both institutions; public gallery talks.
Start Year 2015
 
Description AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership 
Organisation National Portrait Gallery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Including paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture, the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) hold in excess of two thousand portraits of naval officers dating from the period covered by this study. This project consolidates and extends knowledge within both institutions of specific works with their respective collections and creates a more contextualised understanding of the wider genre to which these works belong. In so doing, it also highlights direct and indirect links between the two collections. The doctoral thesis will be the primary vehicle through which these contributions are made; copies of the completed thesis will be made available to all partner institutions. The research resulting from this award will also be used to produce two open-access online resources intended for a general audience, to be hosted on the NPG website. These resources will combine portraits from the NPG and portraits and other objects from the NMM in order to tell stories that neither collection could tell on its own. Specific contributions to the NMM have included a one-hour staff research seminar, multiple public gallery talks and contributions to the Maritime History and Culture Seminar series, organised by the Museum at the Institute of Historical Research. In May 2018, I will also contribute to the NPG's research seminar series. Informal advice on public enquiries related to naval portraits has also been provided at both institutions.
Collaborator Contribution Both the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) are represented on the collaborative doctoral project's supervisory team, the former by Christine Riding and the latter by Dr Lucy Peltz. These individuals provide formal and informal supervision on a one-to-one basis and in joint supervisory meetings with the primary academic supervisor. On an approved discretionary basis, the NMM provides expenses of £1000 per annum (£3000 in total over the duration of the award) to cover the costs of travel, accommodation, conference fees and other activity directly related to the research project. It also grants access to desk space and office facilities in the Research and Curatorial Department at the NMM (including but not limited to printing, photocopying, scanning and other IT support, plus free access to electronic journals and resources to which the Museum subscribes). There is provision for in-house training in relevant skills, such as object handling and use of collections management software. In-kind benefits also include free admission to NMM conferences and an NMM staff pass, which grants free access to exhibitions at the NMM and a number of other major museums and discounts in NMM shops and cafés. The project is also supported by the broader research community at the NMM through formal and informal discussions with curators, research fellows and other students. The NPG provides access to desk space (on a hot-desk basis) and to other office facilities, as well as an NPG staff pass. Professional training is available through the Curatorial Training Programme and informal advice is provided by the Gallery's research community of curators, fellows and students. Use of on-site resources, such as the Heinz Archive and Library, is also offered.
Impact Outputs or outcomes resulting from this collaboration include: doctoral thesis; open-access online resources, hosted on the NPG website; research seminars presented at both institutions; public gallery talks.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Caird Library Research Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The National Maritime Museum (NMM) holds monthly staff research seminars, in which members of staff and affiliated researchers (including collaborative doctoral students, such as myself) present forty-five-minute papers upon an aspect of their research, followed by fifteen minutes of questions. These seminars are staged on-site at the Museum in the publicly accessible Caird Library. They are scholarly in tone and content and attract an academic audience of students, curators, lecturers and independent scholars, but they are also open to the general public. I gave a talk in February 2018 on a topic from the research funded by this award. It was attended by eight individuals, including two members of the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description National Portrait Gallery Online Learning Resources 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two online learning resources created in collaboration with the Learning and Interpretation team at the National Portrait Gallery - one on naval uniform (dress history is an important aspect of the gallery's learning programme) and one on Captain Cook (coinciding with the 250th anniversary of Cook's first Pacific voyage). The resources were aimed at a general audience and used portraits from the NPG collection and collections from the National Maritime Museum in order to showcase the collaborative nature of this project. No analytics available to quantify the impact and reach of this activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/explore/an-officer-and-a-gentleman-naval-uniform-and-male-fashion...
 
Description National Portrait Gallery Staff Research Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation was delivered to around 15 staff members (across various departments) and invited external guest as part of the National Portrait Gallery's regular staff research seminar series. It sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Queen's House Gallery Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Queen's House (QH), which affiliated with the National Maritime Museum (NMM), offers a programme of weekly "Meet the Experts" gallery talks. These talks are free and open-to-all. They take place within the galleries of the QH, discussing an artwork or artworks on display. Based on the research funded by this award, I have delivered three such talks in February 2017 (approx. 30 attendees), November 2017 (approx. 15 attendees) and May 2018 (approx. 20 attendees) respectively. All talks were also attended by QH/NMM visitor experience staff, who made notes for later use in their own interaction with visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018