Author: Oliver O'Donnell

Caricaturing Mill, Empirically

To read an individual’s inner character from their outward appearance is to indulge a deep-seated temptation that has perennially plagued the history of art. Often manifesting itself in drawings of typical expressions or personalities—to say nothing of its troubled connections to theories of race—the very act of visualizing an inner mind by way of outer forms quite easily gives way to another prevalent practice: caricature, the intentional distortion of a given person’s distinctive features for expressive effect.

Kenwood House: 91 years on

It is surprisingly easy, cliché though it sounds, to get lost in Hampstead Heath, that large, hilly, and famously wild park in north London. And if you get just lost enough at just the right spot, you might not only forget where you are but also when you are. That is what Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, seems to have wanted when he left Kenwood, a large estate at the northern edge of the Heath, including a neoclassical mansion filled with a careful selection of 63 master paintings, to the nation upon his death in 1927. The Iveagh Bequest mandates that the collection be “preserved as a fine example of the artistic home of a gentleman of the eighteenth century” and so it has.

Edgar Wind: ‘Hume and the Heroic Self-Portrait’

Often understood as a mode of Geistesgeschichte, Wind’s lecture was a pioneering effort to think about canonical works of 18th century British art through the larger philosophical discourse of their time, most notably through the debates aroused by the skeptical arguments of David Hume concerning human nature. How might paintings, Wind asked, have been involved in the period’s questioning and championing of human reason as a trustworthy cognitive capacity that purportedly elevates man above other animals?

John Trumbull’s ‘The Declaration of Independence’

John Trumbull’s The Declaration of Independence is an iconic image of American history and a rich example of a Bilderfahrzeug functioning in the context of nationhood. On the one hand, the image’s multiple instantiations are key to its wide transmission, existing as it does as three paintings by Trumbull and a number of especially mobile 19th century engravings after those paintings, to say nothing of its more recent dissemination by more modern means.