Arts of Albion, 1500-1900


This seminar studies the decorative and applied arts in Britain from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, a period that saw its transformation from an island on the margins of Europe into an imperial power. It capitalizes on the Met’s newly reorganized galleries for British Decorative Arts and Design, both as a repository of period artifacts and as a test case of new strategies for linking history and design. Topics of special interest include the role of the court in establishing cultural models; the contribution of foreign artisans and designers in introducing new styles and fashions; the rise of industry and new manufacturing technologies; the reliance on mercantile and colonial networks for new materials, markets, design ideas, and wealth; the relation of design to changing social and economic philosophies that governed attitudes to consumption and taste; the links between design and morality, aesthetics, and hygiene in the domestic interior; and the importance of international exhibitions and related institutions in driving competition and innovation. Class meetings alternate between sessions held at Bard Graduate Center, emphasizing historical and historiographical questions, and seminars at the Met in which participants take an active role in discussing selected objects and object groups. Each student will also develop an independent research project in consultation with the instructors, to be presented to the group at the end of term.

3 credits. Depending on final research project, this course can satisfy the pre-1800 requirement.