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In Conversation: Always Nearly Famous

15 November 2019, 19:00

Ondaatje Wing Theatre

Tickets: £10 (£8 concessions and Gallery Supporters) Book online, or visit the Gallery in person.

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Fanny Eaton By Joanna Wells, 1861 Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

Fanny Eaton By Joanna Wells, 1861 Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

What does it take for female artists of the past to become famous? Indeed, what brings about fame for or a dead artist and their works? It seems as if such artists as Joanna Wells (nee Boyce), Marie Spartali and Evelyn DeMorgan, even when they get the attention they have often been denied in the past, become nearly famous but never so well-established in the historical record that their reputations can be taken for granted and built upon as time goes by. Art historian Pamela Gerrish-Nunn, Chief Curator Alison Smith and journalist Rachel Cooke will examine the issue to see if some deep-seated resistance to believing in female artists' worth is to blame, or whether it is more a matter of the social factors that Linda Nochlin famously assembled for scrutiny when asking the question in 1972, 'Why have there been no great women artists?'

Pamela Gerrish Nunn, formerly professor of Art History at the University of Canterbury (Christchurch) and University of Memphis (Tennessee), has specialised since the late 1970s in the history of female artists. She has published widely on Victorian and early 20th-century women artists and curated a number of ground-breaking exhibitions including Pre-Rapahelite Women Artists (1997, with Jan Marsh) and A Pre-Raphaelite Journey: the art of Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (2012).She lives and works in New Zealand, where her most recent exhibition was Frances Hodgkins: from Dunedin to Waikanae (May-June 2019).

Alison Smith joined the National Portrait Gallery in 2017 as Chief Curator. Prior to that she was lead curator of 19th-century British art at Tate Britain where her exhibitions included Exposed: The Victorian Nude (2001), Millais (2007), Watercolour (2011), Artist and Empire (2015) and Edward Burne-Jones (2018-19), the first major survey of the artist’s work to be held in London for over forty years. In 2017 she curated Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites at the National Gallery, London which explored the influence of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434) on the young painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Rachel Cooke was born in Sheffield. She trained as a reporter at the Sunday Times, and is now a writer at The Observer, where she has won several awards. She is also the television critic of the New Statesman. Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties was published by Virago in 2014.

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