Sei sulla pagina 1di 13

1 Nathaniel Hone’s 1775

The first single-artist retrospective1
Konstantinos J. Stefanis

We live in an age in which exhibitions are deemed worthy of their own retrospectives.
‘Turner Prize: A Retrospective 1984–2006’ was staged at Tate Britain in 2007–2008,
whereas ‘50 Years Documenta 1955–2005’ was presented at the Friderecianum in
Kassel in 2005. But how did retrospectives, as a distinct type of exhibition format,
emerge in the art world? In this chapter I will present the case of Nathaniel Hone’s
1775 private exhibition, which I argue is the first fully recorded single-artist retrospec-
tive ever staged by a living artist to showcase his work.
To date, Hone’s retrospective has been treated casually in art historical literature.
It is not usually described as a retrospective, although it quite clearly was. Only Le
Harivel in his small monograph on the artist mentions that ‘Hone’s defiant retrospec-
tive exhibition in 1775, which confronted the British art establishment, is now seen as
a key event in the development of the status of artists’,2 while Anne Crookshank and
the late Knight of Glin also identify it as a retrospective.3 Otherwise, it is mentioned
incidentally in relation to the exhibitions of more notable artists (such as John Single-
ton Copley and Joseph Wright of Derby) and merely described as a one-man exhibi-
tion4 or a private exhibition.5 Some scholars, nevertheless, have recognised Hone’s
exhibition as being probably the first private exhibition by an artist who charged
admission.6 Its retrospective nature, however, has yet to be examined and thus pro-
vides the core argument of this chapter.
The history of the retrospective has so far received scant attention by art histori-
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

ans.7 The term rétrospective originates from the Latin verb retrospicere (to look back)
and connotes a view or a contemplation of the past.8 Additionally, it implies a com-
prehensive survey or review of past events. As such, a retrospective exhibition brings
together works from an extended period of time in order to represent the expanse
of an artist’s career. Accordingly, a retrospective may be distinguished from a one-
wo/man show by the fact that, while the former presents material belonging to an
extended time frame, the latter more often showcases a discrete body of recent work.
Despite the fact that in art historical literature the two terms are often used inter-
changeably, in this chapter I deliberately use the term ‘retrospective’ for its historical
connotation and its gender-neutral character.
It was during the second half of the nineteenth century that the retrospective exhi-
bition became particularly noticeable in France and when the term exposition rétro-
spective entered the French language.9 Hence, it is not uncommon to associate the
initiation of these special exhibitions with France at that time. Patricia Mainardi has
argued that the retrospective was introduced on the occasion of the Exposition Uni-
verselle of 1855 when the government of the Second Empire organised individual

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
14 Konstantinos J. Stefanis
displays for four leading artists of France: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Horace
Vernet, Eugène Delacroix and Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps.10 Robert Jensen, who has
devoted a whole chapter to the subject of the retrospective, has provided a valuable
account of the practice both as an official, state implementation to recognise artis-
tic excellence which confers honours on exemplary artists and as a marketing tactic
utilised by art dealers.11 Nevertheless, Jensen’s account is also concerned only with
the second half of the nineteenth century in France. Additionally, Martha Ward has
remarked that ‘the monographic or retrospective show, [was] in place by mid-century
and quite common by 1900’.12
The emergence, however, of the retrospective – although it was not yet named as
such – may be found in the eighteenth century. A number of studies have identified a
1783 exhibition in Paris as the first retrospective devoted to the work of a living art-
ist.13 That exhibition, which presented a number of works by Claude-Joseph Vernet,
was organised by an entrepreneur named Mammès-Claude Pahin de La Blancherie.
His Vernet exhibition belonged to a group of three thematic displays intended to
honour the French school of painting. Francis Haskell discussed these three shows
in his penultimate and rewarding book, The Ephemeral Museum (2000), as early
examples of another type of exhibition practice: the Old Master exhibition. Hone’s
exhibition, however, is the first known retrospective organised by the artist him-
self. As the first of its kind, it certainly could have implanted the seed of the artist’s
autonomy and given way to the blossoming of private exhibitions in England in the
1780s, and globally since.
The rise of the retrospective happened with contemporary artists vying for atten-
tion, recognition and patronage. Exhibitions were not only the platform from which
artists presented their work to the public but also an arena in which they competed
with one another. They were not only instrumental in promoting the reputation of
an artist but also helped to raise his or her social and professional status.14 With
Nathaniel Hone’s retrospective we witness the efforts of a living artist to present his
productions independently, in the best possible manner, and a desire to gain autonomy
from group associations and their restrictions. Hone’s exhibition happened in tandem
with a significant proliferation of private exhibitions in England such as one-wo/man
shows and one-picture shows. Living artists were trying to establish individual reputa-
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

tions and they found themselves battling for attention and patronage from collectors
(and the state) who revered Old Masters and preferred them as a secure choice and as
an investment. Hence, to be successful, contemporary artists had to stand out not only
among their peers but also against esteemed masters.
As with any other private exhibition the retrospective epitomised authorship and
enabled artists to showcase their individuality. At the same time, though, it offered
the opportunity for living artists to show their history, their course of development
and achievement in their respective field and the chance to encapsulate and expose
their oeuvre. It is worth bearing in mind that England had neither Old Masters nor an
established British School of art at the time to compete with the rest of Europe; hence
the interest in contemporary production.
By assembling works that were produced over a long period of time, the retrospec-
tive enabled artists to delineate their career and advertise it. James Olney has argued
that ‘a man’s lifework is his fullest autobiography’.15 Admittedly, when an artist assem-
bles and presents his/her work in a retrospective exhibition, the venture resembles an
autobiography. The writing of the self, the narration of one’s own history in the form

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
Nathaniel Hone’s 1775 exhibition 15
of a story, which had become recognised as a genre by the end of the eighteenth cen-
tury, shares many similar traits to a public exhibition that presents the lifework of an
artist as a magnum opus. But let us look more closely at Hone’s venture in order to
perceive why and how he staged his 1775 retrospective in London.

The exhibition
The following advertisement (Figure 1.1) appeared informing the London public, in
the spring of 1775, that Nathaniel Hone R.A. was staging an exhibition of his works.
Hone’s announcement was surely different from what the public had come to
expect. Nathaniel Hone, the Royal Academician, had rented a room to exhibit ‘the
Conjurer’ along with several other examples of his work. He charged one shilling for
admittance and distributed gratis a catalogue with his ‘apology’. In addition, his show
ran concurrently with the Royal Academy exhibition in which, as a member, he was
supposed to have been taking part.
The Conjuror (Figure 1.2),16 which was the highlight of the exhibition, is a large oil
painting that Hone had sent to the Royal Academy, together with six other works, to
be exhibited at the seventh annual exhibition of that body. For reasons to which I shall
refer in what follows, the painting was rejected by the Academy committee, prompt-
ing the artist to stage his own exhibition. Nevertheless, as the advertisement made
clear, Hone did not show only The Conjuror but also sixty-five other works spanning
nearly the whole of his career. This appears to be the first fully recorded retrospec-
tive exhibition devoted to the work of a single artist. Additionally, it is the first one
mounted by the very person whose work was on display.
Hone was a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts and showed examples
of his work in all exhibitions of that institution until his death in 1784.17 His career as
an artist started as a successful miniature painter, but he soon moved on to the more
fashionable and profitable portraits in oil on a large scale. Upon switching to oil,
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

Figure 1.1 Advertisement of Hone’s Exhibition. The Public Advertiser, Monday, 8 May 1775,
p. [1]. From Gale. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
Source: © Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
16 Konstantinos J. Stefanis

Figure 1.2 Nathaniel Hone I Irish, 1718–1784, The Conjuror, 1775, Oil on canvas, 1450 ×
1730 mm
Source: © National Gallery of Ireland, NGI.1790
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

however, he found it difficult to compete with established portraitists, such as Joshua

Reynolds, with whom there appears to have been some rivalry.
After Hone had submitted The Conjuror and the additional works at the Royal
Academy, and while the paintings were actually hanging in the exhibition room, he
was informed that fellow Academician Angelica Kauffman had expressed an objec-
tion to The Conjuror being included in the exhibition. Kauffman, it seems, claimed
that she recognised herself among a group of nude figures at the top left-hand corner
of the painting and, consequently, demanded the ‘offending’ picture be withdrawn, or
else she would not exhibit her works in the same exhibition.18
Indeed, Hone had painted a group of naked figures – most of which were hold-
ing brushes and palettes so as to imply their status as painters – dancing in front
of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The group of artists is probably a reference to the failed
scheme – proposed by Reynolds in 1773 – to decorate St. Paul’s Cathedral with con-
temporary paintings. The scheme, however, never came to fruition, and Hone is prob-
ably reminding the public of an embarrassing moment in Reynolds’s career.

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
Nathaniel Hone’s 1775 exhibition 17
As we are told in Hone’s catalogue, the artist tried to appease Kauffman by sending
her a letter in which he explained that it was never his intention to represent her in
the picture and offered to make alterations to the painting (in fact, in the final picture,
he eliminated the nude figures altogether and in their place introduced four people
drinking at a table). Kauffman, however, remained unconvinced, and Hone reprints
in the retrospective catalogue the following letter from F.M. Newton, Secretary of the
Royal Academy:

I am directed to acquaint you, that a ballot having been taken by the Council,
whether your picture called the Conjuror should be admitted in the Exhibition, it
was determined in the negative.
You are therefore desired to send for the picture as soon as it may be convenient.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,
F.M. Newton, R.A. Secretary
Exhibition Room, Pall Mall.
Tuesday evening, 9 o’clock.
Nathaniel Hone, Esq.19

Hone included anecdotal material in his catalogue in order to make his case and assert
his point for holding the exhibition. It is important to acknowledge, however, that the
catalogue presents a one-sided view of the events and leaves much to be desired in
terms of clarity and what really went on with his exhibition, as well as the motivations
behind the singular show. Nevertheless, Hone quickly prepared a primary document
which featured the history of the incident since he considered it a pressing matter – his
reputation was at stake! Hone was accused of presenting an indecent painting to the
public; he had to come up with a defence strategy. The exhibition and the catalogue
were his answer. They were his self-documenting acts to restore his honour.
As has been mentioned, Hone did alter The Conjuror and replaced the offending
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

group of the dancing naked figures with four people drinking at a table. The Sketch for
‘The Conjuror’ (Figure 1.3), however, which belongs to the Tate collection, features the
nudes in the top left corner and hence reveals the original appearance of the painting.
Judging from the small, sketchy figures it seems unlikely that someone could identify any
of them in particular and, as Butlin points out, ‘it is difficult to accept Angelica’s objec-
tions as a real justification for the exclusion of the picture from the Royal Academy’.20
The real reason, undoubtedly, behind the exclusion was that The Conjuror essen-
tially accused Reynolds of plagiarism, and Kauffman, who had a close friendship
with Reynolds, probably acted on his behalf to protect him from embarrassment. The
picture depicts a man holding a magic wand in his right hand with which, we are to
understand, he performs the trick of producing paintings by copying the Old Masters.
Leaning on his lap, a young girl admires another print that the Conjuror holds in his
left hand. The prints reference Reynolds’s paintings and depict scenes the artist had
borrowed from Old Masters. The likeness of the Conjuror is that of George White – a
well-known model in the 1770s who was featured in several of Reynolds’s paintings,
among which were Captain of the Banditti and Count Ugolino (exhibited at the Royal

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
18 Konstantinos J. Stefanis

Figure 1.3 Nathaniel Hone I Irish, 1718–1784, Sketch for ‘The Conjuror’, 1775, Oil paint on
wood, 575 × 819 mm
Source: © Tate, London 2016

Academy in 1772 and 1773, respectively). It would not have been very difficult, then,
for the contemporary spectator to make the connection with the president of the Royal
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

Academy and work out the hidden meaning of Hone’s painting. In fact, a reviewer for
The London Evening-Post referred explicitly to the charge of plagiarism.21
It has been suggested that Hone’s painted attack was prompted by Reynolds’s Dis-
course VI (10 December 1774), which had been on the subject of imitation in art.22
In that discourse, Reynolds recommends to prize-winning students to study the work
of geniuses, strive for a suitable conversation with it and in the end not be afraid
to make use of predecessors’ achievements in their personal work. Reynolds’s own
words, but more crucially his deeds, must have given Hone the impetus for a decisive
attack on the president of the Royal Academy. Driven by his personal antipathy for
Reynolds, Hone embarked on an undeniably blatant critique of the pre-eminent art-
ist of the time. Moreover, as Fintan Cullen has speculated, Hone’s Irish origin could
have sparked a ‘flame of anger’ emanating from national rivalries or from the friction
between periphery and centre, which is certainly a strong possible motive behind
Hone’s The Conjuror.23
Hone rented a room at 70 St. Martin’s Lane, opposite Old Slaughter’s Coffee House,
to exhibit his works.24 The entrance fee to the exhibition was one shilling – as was

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
Nathaniel Hone’s 1775 exhibition 19
customary in most ticketed exhibitions of the time – and visitors received gratis the
accompanying catalogue (Figure 1.4). The eight-page catalogue included a preface and
a list of the sixty-six works on display. The preface is solely concerned with the narra-
tion of the events that led to the exclusion of The Conjuror and stated that Hone was
advised by ‘some very respectable friends’ to provide a statement in order to ‘clear his
character from the malicious aspersions attempted to be fixed upon him, as well as
excuse him from the presumption of making an exhibition singly of his own works’.25
Hone, therefore, directly addressed the public – both with the retrospective exhibi-
tion of his work and in the accompanying catalogue – and sought their judgement
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

Figure 1.4 Nathaniel Hone I Irish, 1718–1784, The Exhibition of Pictures, by Nathaniel Hone,
R.A., Mostly the Works of his Leisure, and Many of Them in his Own Possession
Source: ([London]: [n. pub], 1775, Tate Library (V Hone); (photo: the author)

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
20 Konstantinos J. Stefanis
on the exclusion of his painting from the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy.
Hone’s venture is indicative of the rise of the social status of the painter – as a result of
the emergence and popularity of public exhibitions in England – which now allowed
them to step forward as individuals and to address the public directly.
The preface, therefore, justified Hone’s reason for holding an exhibition of his own
work, but why did he think it had to be a retrospective? As the preface states, when
the letter from the Secretary of the Royal Academy reached Hone announcing the
council’s decision to exclude The Conjuror from the seventh exhibition,

He [Hone] was now reduced to a dilemma, to acquiesce supinely under the heavy
reproach of having offered a picture unfit for the public eye, and suffer the affront
of his labours being rejected, and his character traduced. What in such case could
he do? but by appealing to the public, to whose candor and judgement he submits
himself and his art, being sure that, at that tribunal the mist will be dispelled,
truth will be prevalent, and that his labours, which have for many years given
satisfaction and pleasure to his employers, will not now be disapproved of on a
more general inspection by the indulgent public.26

The ‘indulgent public’, hence, was given the opportunity of a ‘general inspection’,
which indicates the reason for Hone’s predilection for a retrospective. A ‘general
inspection’ implies a comprehensive viewing and consequently provides one of the
earliest descriptions of the retrospective format.27 Although Hone could have exhib-
ited only The Conjuror, which was the cause of the scandal, he seems to have thought
that a significant portion of his artistic output – an overview of his artistic career and
not just a single painting – would better enable the public to judge both his intentions
regarding The Conjuror and his character (and career) as a whole. In essence, Hone
was asking the public to ascertain whether he had submitted an indecent painting
or if he had caused Angelica Kauffman an offence, since these were the accusations,
despite the picture’s underlying attack on the president of the Royal Academy. A com-
prehensive outline of his artistic career, he must have felt, had more chances to save
his reputation and defend the painting in question.
Hone’s retrospective included sixty-six works in total that spanned his entire career
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

and exhibited the different mediums in which he worked.28 Included were enamel
miniatures, oil portraits, drawings, landscapes, subject pictures and some unfinished
works. The catalogue was roughly arranged chronologically, giving us a linear evo-
lution of Hone’s career, and also likely reflecting the order in which the works were
exhibited in the room. First to be listed are miniature portraits in enamel, the medium
in which Hone originally made a name for himself but afterwards abandoned for the
more respectable and profitable oil painting. For this reason, he was quick to point
out that: ‘not one of the foregoing enamels have been painted within these fifteen
years, as Mr. Hone gave up his leisure hours from that time to painting in oil’.29 He,
therefore, assigned miniature work to the beginning of his career and was eager to
point out that he now paints in oil. Moreover, Hone was also eager to convince view-
ers that painting was a leisurely, gentlemanly activity and not a laborious process.
The point is also stressed in the title page of his catalogue: the pictures in the exhibi-
tion were designated as ‘mostly the works of his leisure’ and ‘many of them in his
own possession’. By designating the majority of the exhibits as ‘works of his leisure’
Hone appears to be making a distinction between works that were commissioned by

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
Nathaniel Hone’s 1775 exhibition 21
patrons and those for which he was free to choose the subject himself when he was
unoccupied by professional obligations.30
The earliest work on display was painted as far back as twenty-seven years before
and was contrasted with recent works, some of which were still left unfinished. Audi-
ences in the eighteenth century were seldom used to seeing older works by contem-
porary artists or to comparing works of the same artist from different periods. Thus,
Hone’s exhibition was innovative in allowing the visitor to make visual comparisons
between early, youthful work and contemporary examples. While such scrutiny could
potentially prove to be unfair to the artist, who usually wished to show only the best
examples of his work, Hone’s show created an important precedent to which retro-
spectives of the future would adhere.
Interestingly, in his arrangement of the works in the catalogue, Hone classified a
large part of them chronologically according to their initial exhibition date rather
than date of completion. Thus, he indirectly outlined his exhibition history, although
a selective one, from his first public exhibition in England in 1760 to the present. This
evidences the importance of public exhibitions in England and, of course, Hone’s
involvement in them as a pioneer of that development.

Considering the impact of Hone’s exhibition

In early historiography Hone’s retrospective exhibition was overshadowed by the
scandalous painting of The Conjuror, which exemplified his rivalry with Sir Joshua
Reynolds. Joseph Nollekens corroborates the fact that Hone was constantly trying to
defame the president of the Royal Academy.31 Smith, in an anecdote that describes
a visit Hone paid one day to Nollekens, narrates the scandalous incident with The
Conjuror since ‘few people now living’ (p. 133) know the particulars. When he asked
Horace Hone (Nathaniel Hone’s son) to furnish him with information on the story he
was presented with a copy of the exhibition’s catalogue which is ‘now considered the
greatest rarity in the Academic Annals’ (p. 137). Smith, therefore, provides a complete
transcript of the catalogue including a full list of the pictures exhibited.
The anecdote of Hone’s visit to Nollekens and the dispute with the Academy
are reproduced in Allan Cunningham’s book The Lives of the Most Eminent Brit-
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

ish Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.32 Although Cunningham does not include
Hone in his list of eminent British artists – but rather mentions him in Nollek-
ens’s biography – he might have considered him one of the most notorious British
artists as a result of the controversy that was caused by the infamous Conju-
ror. Unlike Smith, who recognises the singularity of Hone’s venture and reprints
the catalogue, Cunningham appears primarily interested in the scandal that was
caused by the painting.
Edward Edwards, on the other hand, had written earlier (and published in 1808)
a biographical account of the artist wherein he maintained that Hone’s ‘first idea’
for the 1775 exhibition ‘owed its origin to pique’ because his painting Two Gentle-
man in Masquerade (1770) had been censored by the Royal Academy.33 The painting
depicted the antiquarian Francis Grose and the lawyer and songwriter Theodosius
Forrest as Capuchin friars feasting at a table. The ‘indecorous’ (Edwards, p. 100)
detail that upset the council of the Royal Academy was Forrest stirring a bowl of
punch with a crucifix. Hone, therefore, was persuaded to replace it with a ladle
in order to be allowed to exhibit it. Two years later, however, Hone engraved and

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
22 Konstantinos J. Stefanis
published a mezzotint of it depicting the original version, and in that condition he
showed the painting in his 1775 exhibition.
Edwards, in addition, acknowledged Hone’s envy towards Sir Joshua Reynolds and
considered that as the principal motive for his satirical painting. A few extracts from
Hone’s exhibition catalogue are included in his account of the artist to illustrate his
point that the catalogue ‘was written in so loose and careless a style, that some of the
paragraphs are ludicrous, and others obscure’. Edwards blames Hone for inattention
in not describing some exhibits ‘as pictures or portraits’ (p. 102).
In all these cases that documented the incident it is evident that Hone’s satire was
viewed as an inappropriate and ‘illiberal attack’ on Reynolds’s reputation.34 It is also
clear that, except for Smith, all the other writers are mainly interested in the uproar
that was caused rather than Hone’s exhibition per se. By the beginning of the nine-
teenth century the British public had been accustomed to private exhibitions by artists,
and they were no longer considered a novelty. The fact that Hone’s exhibition was a
full scale review of his career – a retrospective in other words – remained unnoticed.
In the title-page of his catalogue Hone included a Latin quotation from The Fables
of Phaedrus which read, Nisi utile est quod facimus, frustra est Gloria (Unless what
we do is useful, our glory is vain). Hone was conscious that his staging of an exhibi-
tion solely of his own works would be considered as a vain and outright self-promoting
endeavour. As the quotation from Phaedrus shows, however, he believed that his ven-
ture of staging a private, retrospective exhibition would prove useful to other artists
and to the British art world. Although the precise impact of such an exhibition is dif-
ficult to assess, it could be reasonably argued to have aided the course of significant
changes in the British art world of the time.
Principally, it appears to have enforced the idea of the artist’s autonomy.
The emergence of private exhibitions and especially those dedicated to a single,
popular work, what Oskar Bätschmann appropriately has called ‘exhibition pieces’,35
was among the significant changes that occurred in the period in question. That
development originated with highly popular works such as Benjamin West’s Death
of General Wolfe (1770), which caused a sensation in 1771 at the Royal Academy.
The fusion of tragic subject matter, history painting with modern-day relevance and
multi-portraiture proved a captivating combination.
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

Hence, artists seemed to realise increasingly after 1775 that they need not be con-
strained by councils, institutions or patrons in their artistic choices or in the advance-
ment of their careers.36
John Singleton Copley advanced West’s formula and with The Death of the
Earl of Chatham (1781) created a fusion of two genres by which real events were
enriched with portraiture to create a painting in the grand manner. Copley presented
privately the painting to the public, at the Great Room in Spring Gardens, with
phenomenal success. Other artists, following his example, increasingly resorted to
private exhibitions to promote their work. Among others, in the last quarter of the
eighteenth century, Robert Edge Pine had a private exhibition in 1782, Thomas
Gainsborough ceased exhibiting at the Royal Academy and instead organised exhi-
bitions at Schomberg House, where he lived, and Joseph Wright of Derby, in an
action reminiscent of Hone’s retrospective, decided to show twenty-five pictures in
a private exhibition in 1785.
Although Hone’s exhibition was certainly not as successful as subsequent one-
picture shows, it occurred just before the flowering of private exhibitions in England

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
Nathaniel Hone’s 1775 exhibition 23
and could reasonably have played its part in implanting the seed of autonomy from
artists’ associations. Compared with popular one-picture shows by artists like Copley,
Hone’s retrospective exhibition could appear as a misfire, an exhibition that attracted
limited interest. Perhaps it was the novelty of the retrospective format and the accu-
mulation of new and old works that was considered unusual at the time, or simply
Hone’s works were not as popular as those captivating exhibition pieces of other
artists. As an artist whose reputation has not fared well, Hone’s exhibition has, until
recently, been overlooked by the exhibitions of more notable artists. I hope now, how-
ever, the usefulness and significance of Hone’s enterprise – as well as its impact – can
be appreciated as he himself wished.

1 This essay was first published in Visual Culture in Britain, vol. 14, no. 2, July 2013,
pp. 131–153 and is available at the journal’s website: The two
peer reviewers from Visual Culture in Britain and Andrew Graciano provided valuable
suggestions, which significantly improved the essay. Following its first publication it was
included in Andrew Graciano, ed., Exhibiting Outside the Academy, Salon and Biennial,
1775–1999: Alternative Venues for Display (Burlington: Ashgate, 2015). It is presented
now in condensed form, with some variations from the original essay and incorporating
constructive comments by Maia Wellington Gahtan and Donatella Pegazzano, for which I
am thankful.
2 Adrian Le Harivel, Nathaniel Hone the Elder 1718–1784 (Dublin: Town House, 1992),
p. 34.
3 Anne Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, The Painters of Ireland (London: Barrie and
Jenkins, 1978), p. 88.
4 See Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press
of Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 104; Kenneth W. Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibi-
tions (London: Studio Publications, 1951), p. 53; and National Gallery of Ireland, Irish
Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, vol. I (Dublin: National Gallery of Ireland,
2001), p. 228.
5 Oskar Bätschmann, The Artist in the Modern World: The Conflict Between Market and Self-
Expression (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 31; Maximiliane Drechsler,
Zwischen Kunst und Kommerz. Zur Geschichte des Austellungswesens zwischen 1775 und
1905 (Munich and Berlin: Deutscherkunstverlag, 1996), pp. 17–22; and John Newman,
‘Reynolds and Hone: “The Conjuror” Unmasked’, in Reynolds, exhib. cat., ed. by Nicholas
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

Penny (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1986), pp. 344–354.

6 See Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions, p. 53; and Jon Whiteley, ‘Exhibitions of Contem-
porary Painting in London and Paris 1760–1860’, in Saloni, Gallerie, Musei e loro influ-
enza sullo sviluppo dell’arte dei secoli XIX e XX, ed. by Francis Haskell, Atti del XXIV
congresso internazionale di storia dell’arte, Bologna, 1979, vol. 7 (Bologna: Clueb, 1981),
pp. 69–87.
7 For a discussion on the emergence and early development of the retrospective format, see
Constantine Stefanis, ‘Artists in Retrospect: The Rise and Rise of the Retrospective Exhibi-
tion’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Birkbeck College, 2011).
8 According to my research, so far, the earliest evidence I’ve managed to find on the use of
the adjective rétrospective in relation to an art exhibition was on the occasion of the 1867
Exposition Universelle in Paris and had the connotation of a historical overview. An exhibi-
tion organised by the Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts appliqués à l’Industrie, as a prelude to
the 1867 Exposition Universelle, bore the title Exposition Rétrospective. Tableaux anciens
empruntes aux galeries particulières (Paris: Impr. de Claye 1866) and brought together
many paintings, mostly of Old Masters, from fifty-six private collections. An earlier exhibi-
tion by the same association was staged in 1865, again as a prelude to the Exposition Uni-
verselle, and featured industrial objects from three overarching periods: Antiquity, Middle
Ages and Renaissance. For the latter exhibition, see the catalogue: Union Centrale des

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
24 Konstantinos J. Stefanis
Beaux-Arts appliqués à l’Industrie, Exposition de 1865: Palais de l’Industrie, Musée Rétro-
spectif: Catalogue (Paris: Librairie Centrale, 1865).
9 See the entry ‘rétrospectif, -ive’ in Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France),
Trésor de la Langue Française (TLFi). <> [Accessed 12 December
2016]; Émile Littré described the word as a ‘neologism’ in his dictionary, whose second edi-
tion was completed in 1877; see the entry ‘rétrospectif, -ive’ in Émile Littré, Dictionnaire de
la langue française (Paris: Hachette, 1863–1877).
10 Patricia Mainardi, Art and Politics of the Second Empire: The Universal Expositions of
1855 and 1867 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).
11 Robert Jensen, Marketing Modernism in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1994), Chapter 4, ‘The Retrospective’, pp. 107–137.
12 Martha Ward, ‘What’s Important About the History of Modern Art Exhibitions?’, in Think-
ing About Exhibitions, ed. by Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson, and Sandy Nairne
(London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 451–464, p. 458.
13 See Francis Haskell, The Ephemeral Museum: Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the
Art Exhibition (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 14–22; Robert
W. Berger, Public Access to Art in Paris: A Documentary History From the Middle Ages to
1800 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), p. 233; and Richard
Wrigley, The Origins of French Art Criticism: From the Ancien Régime to the Restoration
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 25.
14 For the burgeoning sphere of exhibition culture in England, see Altick, The Shows of Lon-
don; David H. Solkin, Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House,
1780–1836 (New Haven, CT and London: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Stud-
ies in British Art and the Courtauld Institute Gallery by Yale University Press, 2001); and
Rosie Dias, ‘“A World of Pictures”: Pall Mall and the Topography of Display, 1780–99’, in
Georgian Geographies: Essays on Space, Place and Landscape in the Eighteenth Century,
ed. by Miles Ogborn and Charles W.J. Withers (Manchester and New York: Manchester
University Press, 2004), pp. 92–113.
15 James Olney, Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1972), p. 3.
16 The painting was offered for sale at Christie, Manson & Woods, Catalogue of Pictures by
Old Masters, the property of major Eric A. Knight, [. . .] Which Will Be Sold by Auction
[. . .] On Friday, December 1, 1944 ([London]: Christie, Manson & Woods, [1944]), Lot
39. It was then the subject of an article by Alan Noel Latimer Munby, ‘Nathaniel Hone’s
‘“Conjuror”’, Connoisseur, 120, no. No 506 (December. 1947), 82–84. In 1966 it entered
the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, see National Gallery of Ireland, Irish
Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, vol. I, pp. 226–231. In 1967 Tate Gallery
purchased a sketch of the original painting. For a detailed discussion of the painting and
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

the sketch see, Martin Butlin, ‘An Eighteenth-century Art Scandal: Nathaniel Hone’s “The
Conjuror”’, Connoisseur, 174, No. 699, (May 1970), 1–9; and Newman, ‘Reynolds and
Hone: “The Conjuror” Unmasked’.
17 Algernon Graves does not mention that Hone exhibited in the 1776 exhibition of the Royal
Academy. See Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of
Contributors and their Works From Its foundation in 1769 to 1904, 8 vols. (London, 1906;
reprinted [London]: S. R. Publishers and Kingsmead Reprints, 1970), IV, p. 143.
18 See the letter of Angelica Kauffman to the Royal Academy (RAA/SEC/1/7) dated ‘Tuesday
noon’ [18 April 1775]. I wish to thank Archivist Mark Pomeroy for his help with material
from the Royal Academy Archive.
19 Nathaniel Hone, The Exhibition of Pictures, by Nathaniel Hone, R.A., Mostly the Works
of His Leisure, and Many of Them in His Own Possession (London: [n. pub.], 1775), p. 2.
Two copies of that letter are to be found at the Royal Academy Archive (AND/2/156 &
20 Butlin, ‘An Eighteenth-century Art Scandal’, p. 5.
21 See ‘Account of the Principal Pictures, Busts, &c. Now Exhibiting at the Royal Academy,
Pall-mall, With Impartial Observations’, The London Evening-Post, 9–11 May 1775, p. 8.
There has also been the suggestion that the girl on the Conjuror’s lap might represent
Angelica Kauffman, illustrating thus the rumours that were widespread at the time of an

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.
Nathaniel Hone’s 1775 exhibition 25
intimate relationship between Reynolds and Kauffman; see Butlin, ‘An Eighteenth-century
Art Scandal’; and Newman, ‘Reynolds and Hone’.
22 See the letter by ‘A Lover of Wit’, The Public Advertiser, 15 May 1775, p. 2 and the reply
from ‘A Lover of Decency’, The Public Advertiser, 20 May 1775, p. 2.
23 Fintan Cullen, Visual Politics: The Representation of Ireland 1750–1930 (Cork: Cork Uni-
versity Press, 1997), p. 24.
24 See JohnThomas Smith, Nollekens and His Times: Comprehending a Life of That Cel-
ebrated Sculptor; and Memoirs of Contemporary Artists From the Time of Roubiliac, Hog-
arth and Reynolds to That of Fuseli, Flaxman and Blake, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: Henry
Colburn, 1829), I, p. 136.
25 Hone, The Exhibition of Pictures [. . .], p. 1.
26 Ibid., p. 2.
27 It is worth noting that, several years later, John Galt described a retrospective exhibition
using the term ‘general exhibition’; see John Galt, The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin
West, Esq., President of the Royal Academy of London, 2 vols. (London: Printed for T.
Cadell and W. Davies, 1820), II, p. 204.
28 Sixty-six were the entries in Hone’s list, which included three frames with miniature enam-
els. If we count the individual enameled pictures as separate works, the total number of
works exhibited was 102.
29 Hone, The Exhibition of Pictures, p. 3, italics in original.
30 I am grateful to Petra ten-Doesschate Chu for pointing out to me the intended meaning of
Hone’s use of the word ‘leisure’.
31 See JohnThomas Smith, Nollekens and His Times [. . .], I, pp. 131–144.
32 Allan Cunningham, The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Archi-
tects, 6 vols. (London: J. Murray, 1829–1833), III, pp. 150–152.
33 Edward Edwards, Anecdotes of Painters Who Have Resided or Been Born in England [. . .]
(London: Printed by Luke Hansard & Sons, for Leigh and Sotheby, W. J. and J. Richard-
son, R. Faulder, T. Payne, and J. White, 1808; facsimile reprint London: Cornmarket Press,
1970), p. 100.
34 Anthony Pasquin [pseud. of John Williams], Memoirs of the Royal Academicians, Being an
Attempt to Improve National Taste (London: Published by H.D. Symonds, P. McQueen,
and T. Bellamy, 1796), p. 68.
35 Bätschmann, The Artist in the Modern World, p. 29.
36 Such autonomy seems to me to be analogous to the freedom of painters themselves to com-
mission or produce engravings of their paintings in order to promote their work.
Copyright © 2018. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.

Gahtan, Maia Wellington, and Pegazzano, Donatella, eds. Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
Accessed May 23, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from pitt-ebooks on 2020-05-23 16:46:53.