Thomas Gainsborough, "Upland Landscape with market cart, cottages and figures", 1778, ink, chalk and gouache, 27 x 34.9 cm, National Gallery of Victoria
Thomas Gainsborough, “Upland Landscape with market cart, cottages and figures”, 1778, ink, chalk and gouache, 27 x 34.9 cm, National Gallery of Victoria

This public lecture will compare the rival eighteenth century portraitists Thomas Gainsborough and George Romney, united by their disaffection from portrait painting but revealing contrasting constructions of creativity in their sketches and drawings. Gainsborough, who was in love with rural life and his invention of British landscape, played with new techniques and combinations of materials with innovative skill and gestural verve. He gave away many of his drawings to friends Romney, the intense and obsessive melancholic was in search of inspiring historical or social themes and his mercurial sketches in endless private notebooks are attempts to capture inspirational moments at speed in order to serve profound artistic and philosophical ends. His obsessive graphic re-workings of themes are in some respects ‘blind’ drawings propelled towards unachievable goals whereas the pragmatic Gainsborough never ceased to tweak the fresh ‘look’ of his drawings for both his own and others’ pleasure. This lecture proposes that the hegemonic project of portraiture served to mask the underlying tensions between the neoclassical and the romantic and between grand European narratives and mundane British issues of class, wealth and social mobility that could be addressed more directly in drawing.

Date: Tuesday 13 October 2015, 4.15-5.15 pm

Venue: The Singapore Theatre, Melbourne School of Design (formerly Architecture Building), University of Melbourne

Deanna Petherbridge CBE, Professor Emeritus, University of the West of England, Bristol, is an artist, writer and curator primarily concerned with drawing. Her practice is drawing-based (predominantly pen & ink drawings on paper), although she has also produced large-scale murals and designed for the theatre. Since the early 1990’s she has been promoting the importance of drawing in relation to contemporary art practice through various publications including the series Drawing towards Enquiry at the National Gallery in London in 2006. Her book The Primacy of Drawing: Histories & Theories of Practice, 2010, examines the importance of drawing as significant practice in Western art history from the fifteenth century as well as its relevance to contemporary artists working with multiple practices. She has held a number of academic positions, including Visiting Professor of Drawing at the University of the Arts London from 2009 to 2012. She was Professor of Drawing at the Royal College of Art from 1995 to 2001 where she launched the Centre for Drawing Research, the first doctoral programme in drawing in the UK. She was Arnolfini Professor of Drawing at the University of the West of England, Bristol between 2002 & 2006 and held a two year Research Professorship at the University of Lincoln 2007 – 2009. As a visiting artist and academic, Deanna Petherbridge was a Research Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles 2001 – 2001, and undertook a research fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven during 2007. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Design by Kingston University, London in 2001 and became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1998. Other research areas of particular interest to Petherbridge are the relationship of art and science (particularly in relation to anatomy); vernacular architecture; and issues of bodily representation (for example, representations of female witches in Western Art explored in the exhibition Witches & Wicked Bodies, 2013 – 2015). Her most recent solo exhibition was Petherbridge Alone with Soane, in Sir John Soane’s country house, Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, 2008, which accompanied an exhibition of eight international artists in the PM gallery, curated by herself, entitled Drawing as Vital Practice.