"Dissolving the Bonds: Robert Sayer and John Bennett, Print Publishers in an Age of Revolution."
University of Delaware,
This dissertation presents the first study of the British print publishers Robert Sayer (1726–1794) and John Bennett (c. 1745–1787). From 1748 to 1794, the two men ran one of the largest print- and map-publishing businesses in the London. The importance of their firm lay chiefly in its ability to influence the design, production, distribution, and consumption of prints across the British Empire and the European continent. In the 1770s, the publishers issued a series of mezzotints that responded to the conflict in the British colonies in North America. Though intended to be short-lived, one of them—"The Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man, or Tarring & Feathering"—instead became an enduring emblem of the American Revolution. Following this print from its creation, through its transatlantic travels, and into its nineteenth-century afterlives demonstrates that Sayer & Bennett’s publications significantly shaped how British and American viewers understood their changing empires in an age of revolution.
This dissertation argues for the necessity of foregrounding the publishers’ perspective in order to study the aesthetic, political, and social changes that occurred in the print-publishing industry in the second half of the eighteenth century. Arranged in roughly chronological order, each chapter examines Sayer’s priorities in a given decade alongside an aspect of the print-publishing business. Chapter 2 evaluates the audience for prints and the effects of print shops within the London streets. Chapter 3 reconstructs the relationships Sayer formed with the tradesmen he employed, since the significance of any one firm cannot be ascertained without an understanding of the industry as a whole. Chapter 4 returns "Tarring & Feathering" to its original political context to recover how its meaning shifted from specific and local to general and imperial. Chapter 5 posits a study of a visual culture of dissolution by tracing the material histories of the firm’s copper mezzotint plates, whose limited durability amplified their publisher’s tenuous mental stability. Finally, the epilogue investigates how translations across media in the nineteenth century transformed "Tarring & Feathering" into a trigger for cultural memories about national origins and a contested symbol of the dangers of popular democracy.
"The Wanton Line: Hogarth and the public life of longitude."
University of Cambridge,
This thesis considers the eighteenth-century search for the longitude through Plate 8 of
William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, where a ‘longitude lunatic’ seeks to solve the problem
on the wall of his cell in Bedlam. In doing so, it addresses two linked issues: first, how the
longitude problem was discussed by the wider British community, and how this affected the
actors directly involved in seeking the solution; and second, what was so iconic about this
problem that made Hogarth place it at the centre of his modern moral series about a young
man ruined by London society. The thesis combines considerations of longitude from plays,
poems, religious tracts, novels, prints, paintings and correspondence, alongside the archives
and instruments that recorded the search by the Board of Longitude. Useful parallels emerge
between the Board’s most famous applicant, John Harrison, and William Hogarth’s own
I open with discussion of the place of the longitude problem, and navigational science more
generally, within London life and Hogarth’s works, arguing that London became Hogarth’s ‘
ship of fools,’ in need of guidance. I then consider three ways in which longitude was a ‘
problem.’ Visually, it presented new challenges about how to communicate contested ideas
on paper with words and images, through maps, illustrations and diagrams. These
considerations developed alongside contemporary concerns over copyright and patenting.
Mentally, longitude highlighted the complex boundary between impossible ‘projects,’ mad
schemes and ‘genius’ inventions, raising questions about the status of innovation and
originality. Socially, ‘the longitude’ articulated a problematic space between polite and
impolite science, which made it a useful concept with which to negotiate wider contemporary
social boundaries. The status of both women and instruments became key to these
discussions. In sum, the longitude problem, as the final image in the final plate of Hogarth’s
series, presented a means of orientating a disorientated Augustan society. What we might call
the longitude ‘moment’ meant that all these concerns coalesced into the single image of a
drawing on the wall of Bedlam.
"Latino Print Cultures in the U.S., 1970-2008."
University of Texas at Austin,
This study analyzes U.S. Latino graphic art as participatory practices that shaped collective identity formation. Using archival research, oral history, and visual analysis, I chart the heterogeneous use of collaborative silkscreen over a forty-year period. My project creates an alternative panorama of printmaking and its contributions to latinidad within the specific contexts of Austin, Philadelphia, and San Francisco through the discussion of three graphic objects: La Raza Silkscreen Center’s poster of political prisoner Lolita Lebrón: ¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre! (1975), Taller Puertorriqueño’s poster of Puerto Rico’s official anthem La Borinqueña (c. 1975), and Serie Project’s pro-immigrant print Coming of Age (Transformations) (2008). I argue that workshop production is central to the pan-ethnic formation of U.S. Latinos, and furthermore that artists constitute Latina/o identities from excluded subjectivities: the political prisoner, the colonial subject, and the undocumented. Through a focus on the social lives of printed objects, I explore print culture’s ability to generate counterpublics, alternative political communities, and subjectivities that resist exclusion.
"Buffalo Dancer: The Biography of an Image."
University of Michigan,
This dissertation is the first book-length study to bridge American and Native American art histories and Native studies. To do so, it develops methods of image biography, or following a particular image through space and time. The image in question begins as Karl Bodmer’s watercolor portrait of a Numak'aki [Mandan] Benók Óhate [buffalo bull society] leader, later titled "Mandan Buffalo Dancer" (1834). Starting from its creation point in Indian Territory, the narrative subsequently tracks "Mandan Buffalo Dancer" in and out of various historical and cultural contexts, forms, and genres across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in both Native American and non-Native settings.
Tracing how this story’s various agents utilized print (broadly construed as processes of technological image reproduction), I argue that nineteenth-century systems of racial oppression, based on visual criteria of difference, emerged in part through the very mechanics by which print operates. These mechanics underwrote not only a system of racial notation—the very language of “stereotype,” “cliché,” and “racial typing” belie their sourcing in print technologies—but also a larger, wide-ranging system of knowledge reproduction and distribution that facilitated the containment of Native peoples under the logics of Manifest Destiny. Simultaneously, Native American communities employed print (or auratic cultural practices that reproduce social memory) to promote the continuation of Native societies. These two long histories of print fed the rise of Native political activism in the 1960s and 1970s, as Native communities and artists worked to transform the historical effects of Manifest Destiny’s print enterprise.
Writing these histories in parallel, this project produces an infrastructural study of print image production and valuation. It develops a critical, historical, and cross-cultural language for North American print studies. Finally, in assembling its archive of paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, diaries and letters, advertisements, archaeological artifacts, architecture, journalism, ethnological reports, political cartoons, museum displays, literature, and Native language, this study boldly re-imagines its methodological contact zone, whereby Native histories challenge long-standing paradigms of American art history, visual and material culture take a significant place in Native studies, and Native art history interprets its objects through local languages, histories, and cosmologies.
"Funny Business: Consumerism, Humor, and Critique in the ‘Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus’."
The publication of the Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus (Graphic Art of Capitalist Realism) print portfolio by the René Block Gallery in 1968 marked a notable graphic debut of the Capitalist Realism art group in West Germany. Commissioned by Berlin dealer and curator René Block, six artists, then living in West Germany, and all contemporaries of one another, were each invited to contribute one screenprint each to the project. The work of Klaus Peter Brehmer, Karl Horst Hödicke, Konrad Lueg (Fischer), Sigmar Polke, Wolf Vostell and Gerhard Richter are featured in the portfolio, along with an offset lithograph, designed by Block himself, which serves as the frontispiece.
The primary concern of this thesis is both formal and critical. It is rooted in the understanding that Capitalist Realism is based upon a mosaic of influences and operated as a multi-dimensional artistic movement applying both inventive material modes of parody and appropriating key symbols of postwar West Germany and the promises of the Economic Miracle. Some specific considerations include the manner in which each artist manipulates the screenprint medium to connote parodies of mass-media imagery and modern life; an examination of the 1963 performance piece, "Living with Pop: A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism," organized by two of the portfolio’s contributors – Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg in Düsseldorf; and René Block’s 1971 publication of the catalogue raisonné Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus: Werkverzeichnisse bis 1971.