Sunday, 2 May 2010

The British Art Journal Ten Glorious Years

Ten years of The British Art Journal
This special double issue of The British Art Journal [Vol. X, NO. 3, Winter 2009/2010] celebrates ten years of the journal’s existence. Our first numbers were supported by a few private individuals but also by advertisers, most of whom have remained with us ever since. One of those with us from the start is the Mark Weiss Gallery, which itself celebrates twenty-five years in 2010. The intriguing and in some ways still mysterious portrtait on the cover has been researched in depth by the Weiss Gallery, the fruits of which have been published in a book (available from the gallery) with contributions from art historians (including Sir Roy Strong, Michael Wilson, Jeremy Wood, Duncan Thomson and Tim Wilks) but also music historians (including Benjamin Hebbert) and the conservators who restored it. The painting was the subject of an absorbing one-day seminar at the gallery on 25 February 2010. It is an appropriate image for our cover because it exemplifies the theme of this special issue, which is British art in an international context. The artist was probably Flemish; the sitter was of French Huguenot stock, active in the court of the Scottish Stuart on the throne of England; the small oval painting on the back wall is signed (and dated 1613) by its own painter, Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger (c1580-1649), either Dutch or, more probably, Flemish, who was resident in London from 1617. On the table beside the sitter is a statuette of Antinous and a piece of paper bearing a Latin epigram which contrives to include the notes of the six-note scale (precursor of ‘do, re, mi’) devised or discovered by Guido of Arezzo in the eleventh century: ‘VT RElevet MIserum FAtum SOLitosque LAbores.’
All in all, the painting is a fine international puzzle, and it provided ample material for a remarkably fruitful and amiable discussion among experts assembled from Britain and abroad, from museums, academe, the dealing world, and the musical word (both academic and performing). The seminar is also significant because it draws attention to the ways in which scholarship and the commercial art world, far from being mutually incompatible, can benefit from co-operation. Many suspect, indeed, that the possession of expertise in the examination of paintings is no longer the norm in the academic world. Rather, it is to be found within museums (in some, alas, to a decreasing extent) and with dealers. It would be a great thing if this remarkable seminar was the precursor of many more such collaborations, always provided, of course, that they are conducted in the same refreshing spirit of mutual respect and enjoyment as this was. An exquisite recital of Lanier’s music was shrewdly scheduled to occupy the period immediately following – another international note – an outstanding lunch of Italian food and French wine.

The William MB Berger Prize for British Art History
New arrangements for the 2009 award are in place in order to simplify the procedure. The qualifying period has been changed. Books for the 2009 award would have been considered if published in the period 1 September 2008-31 August 2009. Books will now be considered if published during the period 1 September 2008-31 December 2009, for this occasion only. In future, however, the qualifiying period will be the calendar year 1 January-31 December, the first time that applies being 2010.

For much of its existence the BAJ has also been aided by the support of the Berger Collection Educational Trust, of Denver, which together with the BAJ instituted the Berger Prize. This special issue, with its international theme, has also been supported by a grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, for which we are grateful. And finally, we offer out heartfelt thanks to our subscribers and readers all over the world, without whom…