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The Elements of Life : Biography and Portrait-Painting in Stuart and Georgian England - Richard Wendorf

The Elements of Life

Biography and Portrait-Painting in Stuart and Georgian England

Paperback

Published: 23rd January 1992
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In this ambitious study, Richard Wendorf establishes the grounds of comparison between two arts that have often been linked in a casual way but whose historical interrelations remain almost completely unexplored. By focusing on the great age of English portraiture - from the arrival of Van Dyck to the publication of Boswell's Life of Johnson - the author shows that, despite their obvious differences, visual and verbal portraits often shared similar assumptions about the representation of historical character. Grounded in modern theory devoted to the comparison of literature and painting and to the problem of representation, this book examines each form of portraiture in terms of the other. Among those writers considered are Izaak Walton, John Evelyn, John Aubrey, Roger North, Goldsmith, Johnson, Mrs Piozzi, Boswell; among the artists are Van Dyck, Lely, Samuel Cooper, Jonathan Richardson, Hogarth and Reynolds. The careers of `double agents' (painters, like Richardson and Reynolds, who experimented with biographical writing) are also discussed. The Elements of Life is a ground-breaking critical history of biography and portrait-painting in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

`It is a rare pleasure to read a book of energetic and original criticism which breathes enjoyment and seeks to share it. ... he is never patronising, never intrudes, and yet the reader is left in no doubt as to what is being said, or the grounds for saying it. Again and again Wendorf's reactions are direct, candid, first-hand.' Richard Ollard, The Independent. `fascinating study ... meticulous and illuminating ... The Elements of Life is a dense and highly provocative book, beautifully written by someone almost painfully immersed in the material on which he writes. ... Richard Wendorf has made a head start and set a pace of scholarship and writing which others will do well to emulate.' Marcia Pointon, Art History `he has written a stimulating and erudite book, full of new ideas and interesting comparisons.' Nicholas Barker, The Burlington Magazine `thoughtful and lucidly written ... the subject ... has rarely been analysed so thoroughly or so well.' David Mannings, Times Higher Education Supplement `a most attractive study' Social History Society Newsletter, Spring 1991 'fascinating study ... it is in dwelling upon instances of human passion and the manipulative processes whereby historical individuals have sought to control their environment that Wendorf's work is most original ... The Elements of Life is a dense and highly provocative book, beautifully written by someone almost painfully immersed in the material on which he writes ... Richard Wendorf has made a head start and set a pace of scholarship and writing which others will do well to emulate.' Marcia Pointon, University of Sussex, Art History, Volume 14, Number 3, September 1991 'illuminating book' Christopher Lloyd, The Royal Collection, St James's Palace, Review of English Studies, May 1992 'This is an impressive, handsome, hefty book filled with interesting and original observations. As his splendid book attests, he is equally at home in both the worlds of art history and literature ... Wendorf is comfortable and secure in the pull between the verbal and the visual, not swayed too long by either.' Timothy Dow Adams, West Virginia University, Autobiography Studies 'the analogies he draws between verbal and visual "portraits" genuinely illuminate his subject, disclosing the "similar assumptions about the representation of historical character" shared by artists and biographers of the period ... Time and again in this excellent work Wendorf either introduces us to new subjects or offers fresh insights into familiar ones. His chapter on Hogarth's "dilemma" ... is simply superb ... No less impressive are the chapters on Reynolds and Boswell. Not least among the pleasures of Wendorf's splendid survey of the interrelations between portraiture and life writing is that it opens such unexpected prospects.' Martin C. Battestin, University of Virginia, Modern Philology, 89:4 'Richard Wendorf's Elements of Life to a large extent fills the gap with an intelligent and thoroughly researched study of the portrait as it relates to (is embedded in) biography in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.' Ronald Paulson, Johns Hopkins University, Modern Language Review, Vol. 87 'Wendorf's study, based as it is on an enviable knowledge of the arts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, leaves one with the feeling of having penetrated below the surface of both the biographer's and the painter's world ... useful work.' James Gray, The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, Volume 4 (1991)

List of plates; List of abbreviations; Representing historical character; Iconic biography: Izaak Walton and John Evelyn; Iconic pictures: Van Dyck and Stuart portraiture; Brief lives and miniatures: John Aubrey and Samuel Cooper; Double agents: Jonathan Richardson and Roger North; Hogarth's dilemma; Biography at mid-century: Acts of complicated virtue; Reynolds and 'The Genius of Life'; Boswell's Flemish picture; Epilogue: Gainsborough's Butterfly; Index

ISBN: 9780198119791
ISBN-10: 0198119798
Series: Biography and Portrait-Painting in Stuart and Georgian Engla
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 378
Published: 23rd January 1992
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.29 x 15.65  x 2.24
Weight (kg): 0.62