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5 Conclusion: you know many things

‘Writing what you know’ is a large and rich project, one that provides an endless resource, and one that can be undertaken in all the types of writing discussed in this unit – poetry, fiction and life writing. The skill lies in reawakening your senses to the world around you, and then using what you find with discrimination. By realising the potentials of your own life experience, you will be collecting the materials necessary in order to write. ‘Writing what you know’ can amount to
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4.2 Raiding your past

The more you write, the more you will raid your own past. These incursions won't diminish or reduce your memories – rather those recollections can be enriched and become more fully realised. As Jamaica Kincaid says of her writing:

One of the things I found when I began to write was that writing exactly what happened had a limited amount of power for me. To say exactly what happened was less than what I knew happe
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should:

  • have some understanding of developments in Goya's career as an artist;

  • begin to understand Enlightenment aspects of his work and the ways in which these were later challenged by a more Romantic approach charaterised by a uniqueness of vision and a focus on darker forces;

  • understand some of the ways in which the impact of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain found artistic expression.


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4.1 Inspiring loyalty to the leader

Official support for painting was motivated not simply by propaganda concerns but also by the belief that artistic achievements were crucial indicators of a regime's greatness. Part of the logic behind the emphasis on military painting, therefore, was the assumption that feats of arms and works of art both testified to the glory of Napoleonic rule. Traditionally, however, the most prestigious art form was the classical history painting, exemplified by David's Oath of the Horatii
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3.5.1 Denon's account of Eylau

Exercise

Now read Denon's account of the subject and consider the following questions. In each case, take as your point of reference other Napoleonic propaganda paintings and, in particular, Gros's Jaffa.

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5.7.2 Post-mortems

Activity 22

How do Images 73 and 74 differ from the usual studio portraits of children? Make a note of the more obvious differences.

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Death

The final rite of passage, death itself, permeates the Victorian family album. Throughout the 19th century it was common practice, following the death of a relative, to commission memorial photographs. The overwhelming majority of these memorial photographs feature the person as living, not dead.

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5.6.4 Wedding anniversaries

Silver and golden wedding anniversaries were often commemorated with a portrait. Many examples follow the pattern of the studio portraits taken for engagements and weddings, with the couple taken individually and together.

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5.6.2 Engagement and marriage

Of all rites of passage celebrated in the Victorian family album, those taken at the time of engagement and marriage are by far the most numerous. This testifies to the importance vested in marriage by the Victorians. The custom of commissioning oil or miniature portraits at the time of an engagement or marriage was well established before the advent of photography. Photography enabled couples on more modest incomes to indulge a practice that became widespread among working-class families by
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5.5.4 Confirmation

Image 53 Photographer/Painter: Henry Knight, St Leonards on Sea. Subject: F.E. and Amynora Field, 1877.

You may find it difficult to read the ver
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5.5.3 Birthdays

Image 49 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Portrait of Max Witte.
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5.5.2 Skirts and breeching

Look carefully at Images 46, 47 and 48.

Image 46 Photographer/Painter: Hills & Saunders, Eton. Subject: Michael Cahne Seymour, 1871.

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5.5.1 Christening

Image 45 Photographer/Painter: James Pennington, Aigburth. Subject: Unknown woman and child, 1860s. Christening portrait.

The christening dress h
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5.5 Rites of passage

Image 44 Photographer/Painter: Anon. Subject: William Arthur Brown, the son of James Brown standing in the doorway of Brown & Sons Studio, 148 Camberwell Road, London, c.18
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5.4 Special occasions

Image 43 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Helene Witte in her gown for a fancy dress ball.

Special occasions could inc
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4.10 Retouching

In addition to the efforts made before exposure to show sitters at their best, portrait photographers regularly retouched the negative to remove or improve any perceived defects or blemishes. Before the 1860s, in Britain retouching was generally criticized for interfering with the ‘truthfulness’ of the photographic image. By the mid-1860s, however, the issue became the subject of intense debate and discussion and the journals published details of the various techniques available at the ti
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4.9.3 Limited characterisation

The other function of lighting was, inevitably, to assist characterization. Since Robinson advised portrait photographers to show sitters as moderately calm ladies and gentlemen, the lighting in commercial work is usually quiet and uniform, without dramatic contrasts of light and shade. This was intended to suggest tranquillity, harmony and self-control, in keeping with the limited stereotypical characterization discussed previously.

The use of lighting to convey dramatic characterizati
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4.9.2 Idealisation

Early photographers were adept at using natural lighting to idealise the sitter. Manuals of good practice were full of advice on adapting the lighting to soften wrinkles and wreathe blemishes in shadow.

For ladies of a certain age, who often give the photographer a deal of trouble, it is advisable to employ a very soft light falling in front, which softens the wrinkles and protuberances of the face, and obliterates
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4.8.3 Personal possessions

Most accessories in studio portraits were supplied by the studio. However, it was not uncommon for sitters to introduce items that held a special significance for them, such as children's toys, competition trophies and awards gained in the course of a career. As we should by now expect, any personal items were intended to reflect credit on the sitter.

If we can distinguish the routine studio accessory from the prized personal possession, we may be able to elicit a few more nuggets of in
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Activity 3

Various stock types of difficult sitter recur in the literature. Painters, of course, posed the biggest threat. Other difficult customers included those accompanying sitters: the gentleman with the lady, the mother with the child, the owner with the pet.

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