The Annual Seminar is our open platform for UBP members and the wider museum/heritage/arts/academic sectors to share papers on a range of new work: portrait-focused research, conservation, audience engagement, co-production and interpretation. Each year, we seek to showcase new findings, best practice case studies, and innovative working models. See the recordings from this year’s event, which was chaired and introduced by Simon Martin, Director of Pallant House Gallery. See foot of page for blog posts by seminar attendees.

Download (PDF) Bios and further reading for Annual Seminar 25 Oct 2022

Event recordings and blog posts by attendees

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Welcome from chairperson Simon Martin, Director, Pallant House Gallery

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Dawn Kanter, PhD candidate, the Open University

Understanding British portraiture 1900-1960 as a network of linked portrait-sitting exchanges

My research uses digital methods (in the domain of knowledge engineering) to address the portrait-sitting as a site of interactions and exchanges. In this paper, I discuss how this approach has changed my understanding of both particular portraits – for example, Theodore Spicer-Simson’s medallic portraits of authors (c.1922) and Graham Sutherland’s (now destroyed) painting of Winston Churchill (1954) – and British portraiture 1900–1960 more broadly.

[apologies, no recording available]

Laura Dennis, Curator, Newnham College, University of Cambridge

Portraits of Black Students at Newnham College, Cambridge

Newnham College is a women’s college at the University of Cambridge, founded exactly 150 years ago. This paper will consider a series of portraits of Newnham’s Black students that were specially commissioned as part of this anniversary programme, as an initiative put forward by students in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

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Jonathan Parker, Fine artist and portraitist

A unique perspective: George on the Wrekin

The vivid nature of Sir George Trevelyan’s portrait (National Trust item no. 584490), in which he is depicted on the Wrekin, is relatively well known thanks to its location in a much loved National Trust property, Wallington in Northumberland. However, knowledge of how the painting was created in the months following Sir George’s death in 1996 has been hidden until now. This paper, given by the artist who is the sitter’s great-nephew, looks at what caused such an enlightened approach to portrait painting, exploring the ways in which individual and family identities are perceived over time. It reveals how the conceptual pathway towards the finished painting was navigated in practice, as well as sharing some key learning points around composition and technique, analogous to Sir George’s teaching on consciousness.

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Dr David Alston, independent historian

Mocho of Guinea (c.1722–c.1780). The life of an enslaved Black servant in a portrait of the 10th Earl Marischal of Scotland

It is unusual to be able to identify the Black children and teenagers who appear as enslaved servants in portraits of British aristocrats – and only rarely can we discover anything of their lives. Mocho is an exception. We can recover details of his life in two Scottish Jacobite households in continental Europe – with the Earl Marischal in Spain, and later in Neuchâtel, and with the Earl’s younger brother, Field Marshall James Keith, in Ukraine, St Petersburg, Finland and in Prussian campaigns of the Seven Years War. Mocho was one of the Earl’s group of servants, referred to as his ‘ménagerie of young heathens’, who were known to Voltaire and Rousseau and, at least some of them, to James Boswell, David Hume and Adam Ferguson. We can only imagine the earlier traumas of Mocho’s childhood and enslavement – but we should not forget them.

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Sarah Hardy, Director of the de Morgan Museum

‘How to Paint by Instinct’: William De Morgan’s Portraits  

In this talk I will present my research which has allowed me to reattribute ‘Portrait of Mary De Morgan’ to her brother William De Morgan. I will follow this with an examination of De Morgan’s portraits to reveal much about his artistic influences, formal training and creative process, all of which was the foundation for his future career as the premier ceramic design of the Arts and Crafts Movement he is better-known for today.

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Dominic Sanchez-Cabello, art dealer and researcher

Augustus John, Albert Huie and Jamaica: An Artistic Exchange between 2 Islands

In 1937, a 17-year-old Albert Huie (1920–2010) wandered into the Jamaican National Institute with a folder of works and demanded an audience with the secretary, Hender Delves Molesworth. Over the next few years he went from decorating ceramics on street stalls to being the first living Jamaican to hold a solo exhibition in 1943, a personal rise which coincided with Jamaica’s growing independence. In the year that Huie visited the National Institute, an aging Augustus John arrived in Kingston, hoping to revive an ailing career. Jamaica became the inspiration behind his resurgent exhibition of 1938, while he in turn encouraged talented painters struggling on the periphery of a large empire.

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Helen Cobby, Assistant Curator, Barber Institute of Fine Arts

To Have and to Hold: Portrait Miniature Jewellery

My paper will discuss aspects of the display I have recently curated at the Barber Institute, which considers portrait miniatures as pieces of jewellery and suggests how such a perspective can inform the interpretation, display and reception of the portraits they contain. There is a focus on the supports and decorative backs and, in particular, the historic use of human hair and elephant ivory. I argue that ivory miniatures, especially popular in Britain around the mid-18th century, played a role in the period’s construction and representation of ‘whiteness’, and attempt to address some of the implications of this.

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Alex Patterson, Assistant Curator of Fine Art, National Museums Liverpool

 The Colonial Legacies of the Liverpool Sandbach Family: A community-led research and display development project at the Walker Art Gallery

This co-curation project worked with young people from Liverpool’s marginalised communities to expose the links between slavery and portraiture in the Walker Art Gallery’s collection. Through a combined learning and development programme, the Sandbach family portraits by leading sculptor John Gibson are now permanently displayed alongside ankle shackles from the International Slavery Museum. This project investigates the family’s connection to slavery and their patronage of John Gibson and his circle in Rome. It also interrogates how Britain’s colonial history can be explored and shared with our communities.

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Jane Simpkiss, Art Curator, Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum

Subjects and Objects: Re-uniting Shannon, Ricketts and their Greek Vase

This paper will highlight the importance of Charles Haslewood Shannon’s Ricketts, ‘The Man with the Greek Vase’, 1916 (Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum) as a visual statement about his relationship with Charles de Sousy Ricketts and as evidence of the way LGBTQIA+ artists expressed and navigated their identities publicly at the turn of the twentieth century in Britain. It will present the research behind a display at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum this year which reunited the painting with the Greek kylix depicted in it, exploring how the inclusion of this object allowed both artist and sitter to publicly articulate their shared bond at a time when queer relationships were taboo in Great Britain.