Historians of 'Past and Present'
1 portrait on display at British Academy, London
Historians of 'Past and Present'
by Stephen Frederick Godfrey Farthing
oil on canvas, 1999
68 1/4 in. x 81 3/8 in. (1734 mm x 2066 mm)
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Artistback to top
- Stephen Frederick Godfrey Farthing (1950-), Painter and teacher of art. Artist of 1 portrait, Sitter in 2 portraits.
Sittersback to top
- Sir John Huxtable Elliott (1930-), Historian. Sitter in 1 portrait.
- (John Edward) Christopher Hill (1912-2003), Historian. Sitter in 1 portrait.
- Rodney Howard Hilton (1916-2002), Historian. Sitter in 1 portrait.
- Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm (1917-2012), Historian. Sitter in 3 portraits.
- Lawrence Stone (1919-1999), Historian. Sitter in 1 portrait.
- (Irene) Joan Thirsk (1922-2013), Historian. Sitter in 1 portrait.
- Sir Keith Vivian Thomas (1933-), Historian. Sitter in 2 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The founding of the historical journal Past and Present evolved from the friendship of a group of young Marxist historians in the late 1940s, its first edition appearing under the aegis of John Morris (d.1977) in 1952. The aim was broadly to give a platform to both Marxist and non-Marxist historians to air contemporary historical research and discussion.
The seven historians depicted have all had editorial roles in organising the journal, but were not gathered in one place as a group to be painted. The artist Stephen Farthing, Ruskin Master at the Ruskin School in Oxford, sent questionnaires to all the sitters, asking how they perceived themselves in relation to others in the group and visited each of them for sittings during 1999. He describes how he dealt with the task of producing a work that reflected both the era and the intellectual energies of the group:
To take the problem head on I set the picture in the latter days of modernism, 1950-60, and by doing so brought some of its cold dynamic in through the paint handling and style of the picture. The book shelves are not a backdrop but painted to be of equal importance to the sitters, books are after all both the product and focus of their lives. The spines are torn off to reveal the structure of the book and so as not to confuse the bigger picture with the anecdotal. They stand on a carpet woven to reflect the current issue of their journal and in doing so, like the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth, declare their ownership.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 731
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1999back to top
Current affairsFollowing referendums in 1997, The Scottish Parliament is opened and Welsh Assembly established in 1999. The new Scottish Parliament has the powers to pass legislation and alter tax. The Welsh Assembly currently has less legislative authority but controls a budget for Wales and can amend legislation passed by Westminster.The House of Lords Act removes all but 92 Hereditary Lords from the second chamber.
Art and scienceTom Stoppard and Marc Norman's film, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar for Best Picture. The film, starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, and Colin Firth, among other British screen stars, provides a fictitious account of the events that inspired William Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet.
InternationalNATO begins a bombing campaign against the government of Yugoslavia following the breakdown of the Rambouillet Accords that attempted to grant Kosovo autonomy within Serbia under NATO administration. After nearly three months of bombing, Slobodan Milosevic agreed to allow a peacekeeping force to enter Kosovo and the province was placed under a United Nations Interim Administration.
See this portrait
On display at British Academy, London