Whigs, Powder and Paint: The 18th Century in Art, Film and Fashion

Robe à l’Anglaise, French school, c.1785-87. By courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The 18th Century was an era of tumultuous change on both sides of the English Channel. In France, the values of the old order – the ‘aristocratic’ pursuit of luxury and pleasure – were challenged by enlightenment and revolution. In Britain, the rise of ‘polite society’ – of collecting and connoisseurship in the arts, debates about sex, gender and class, and the notion of ‘taste’ – were exploited as a means of both activating and restricting social mobility. 

In this series of talks and films, curated by Dr Jenny Graham, Associate Professor in Art History at the University of Plymouth, current thinkers will revisit this fascinating period in history. 

Film: Dangerous Liaisons (1989)

Adapted for stage and screen several times, French author Francois Choderlos de Laclos' 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses was the basis for this Academy Award-winning Stephen Frears film.

Date: Monday 4 February
Time: 19:00
Venue: Jill Craigie Cinema

Dangerous Liaisons (1989)

Talk: Enlightened Entanglements: Mistresses in 18th-century Art

From Madame de Pompadour in France, to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire or Lady Hamilton in England, the 18th Century offers a number of iconic examples of mistresses and courtesans. Artists and writers responded eagerly to this cultural phenomenon, which saw females cast variously as ruthless social climbers or tragic heroines.

Join Dr Jenny Graham, Associate Professor in Art History at the University of Plymouth, for a lively examination of this compelling aspect of women’s history in the Age of Enlightenment.

Date: Tuesday 12 February
Time: 19:00–20:15
Venue: Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of Madame Grand, 1783. By courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Film: The Madness of King George (1994)

Nigel Hawthorne stars as the British monarch who seemingly became mentally disturbed during his reign and had to endure barbaric 'cures'. Based on Alan Bennett's acclaimed play, The Madness of King George takes a dark-humoured look at the mental decline of the King.

Date: Monday 18 February
Time: 19:00
Venue: Jill Craigie Cinema

The Madness of King George (1994)

Talk: Culture Shock: Travellers in Search of the Arts in Eighteenth-Century Northern Europe

The cultural tourism of the 18th Century is usually associated with the Grand Tour to Italy. Yet the 18th Century witnessed the rise of an alternative tour to Northern Europe, where travellers could take in the splendours of the Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish art or experience a quite different milieu to Naples or Rome.

Join Dr Harry Mount, an expert in 18th-century art criticism, for a fascinating exploration of cultural tourism to the North before the railway age.

Date: Tuesday 5 March
Time: 19:00-20:15
Venue: Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building

Etching by Rembrandt van Rijn, c.1635. By courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Film: Love and Friendship (2016)

This is a deliciously sharp comedy based on the Jane Austen novella. A tale of matchmaking and heart-breaking, centred around beautiful young widow Lady Susan Vernon who has come to Churchill, her in-laws' estate, to wait out the colourful rumours about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, aided and abetted by her loyal friend Alicia she decides to secure husbands for herself and her long-suffering daughter Frederica.

Date: Monday 11 March
Time: 19:00
Venue: Jill Craigie Cinema

Love and Friendship (2016)

Robe à l’Anglaise, French school, c.1785-87. By courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Talk: Revolutionary Style: Fashion in the Eighteenth Century

The fashion of the 18th Century is synonymous with luxury and extravagance, but the tumultuous period at the end of the century saw revolution in France affect both society and style.

In this illustrated talk, fashion historian Amber Butchart looks at the politics of dress and display through some of the era's key figures - from Casanova to Catherine the Great, and from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to Marie Antoinette - to dissect how wealth and power were read on the body through attire, and how the Revolutionary Era brought about huge transformations in the way both men and women dressed.

Date: Tuesday 2 April
Time: 19:00-20:15
Venue: Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building