CFP: Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display
Deadline: 8 July 2016, 12pm
Conference date: 7 October 2016
Conference venue: Paul Mellon Centre, London
The Paul Mellon Centre’s research project, Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display, investigates the collection and display of works of art in the country house in Britain from the sixteenth century to the present day. Focusing on specific case studies, the project addresses two closely related issues:

  • The formation, character and function of country-house art collections.
  • The conventions, development and dynamics of pictorial and sculptural display within the country house.

The crucial importance of the country house to understanding the history of art-collection and display in Britain is indisputable and of long-standing interest to historians of British art. This project, in turning a fresh eye on the collections of art associated with the country house, builds on exciting new developments within this area of scholarship, which shed new light on the wide range of motivations and circumstances that have shaped such collections. The project extends to the country house a growing scholarly interest in modes of pictorial display, which has hitherto tended to focus on the display of paintings, sculpture and prints within more urban and public environments, and on the exhibition space in particular.
The project will concentrate attention on the ways in which country house art collections were formed, and on the reasons why they took the form they did. It will address the impact upon collecting practices of such factors as the growth of continental travel, the development of a sophisticated art market, fluctuations in taste, and dynastic ambitions and familial alliances. It will also address the conditions, facilities and habits of display in the country house, investigating such issues as the shifting modes of the picture hang, the introduction of dedicated gallery spaces within the country house, the relationship between the country house and the town house as sites of collection and display, the development of cataloguing and the growth of professional curatorship.
As an integral part of this project, the Centre is organizing the first of a series of conferences designed to showcase new research in this area. We invite proposals for 30-minute papers which discuss some aspect of the collecting and/ or display of art in a single country house from any point over the past five hundred years. We welcome proposals from academics, museum curators, independent scholars, those working in the heritage sector, and those actively involved in postgraduate studies.  While the Call for Papers has a purposefully broad and open brief, it is essential that submissions offer fresh, methodologically ambitious perspectives on the topic.
Possible themes for exploration might include, but are not limited to:

  • The impact of commerce and travel on collecting
  • The creation and presentation of spaces for display
  • The commissioning and display of portraiture in the country house
  • The collecting and display of historic and/or contemporary art
  • The relationship between country- and town-house modes of collection and display
  • The interaction of works of art within the country-house interior
  • The relationship between the fine and decorative arts in country-house display
  • Patterns of display across the different rooms of a single country house

Proposals, of no more than 250 words, together with a short CV, for 30-minute papers, should be submitted to Ella Fleming at by 8th July 2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *