My current research investigates the connection between topographical art and landscape history in North Western Italy. It is part of a three years' Leverhulme project titled British amateur topographical art and landscape in NW Italy 1835-1915 which is led by Professor Charles Watkins (School of Geography) in collaboration with Dr Ross Balzaretti (School of History).
By looking at topographical views and historical photographs produced by British amateur artists who travelled or resided in the Italian Riviera and the Alps, this project aims to analyse the hidden histories of amateur topographical views and examine them as visual evidence for landscape history.
There are five objectives:
- Who were the British artists making topographical view in North-Western Italy c. 1835-1915?
- What were the main subject depicted by amateur topographical artists? Creation of a database
- What were the interconnections between topographical art and photography?
- What is the cultural significance of amateur topographical art?
- Can topographical art be used to improve landscape management?
Archival research will be carried out in public and private archives in Italy and the UK in order to gather and identify a substantial number of topographical views (drawings, watercolours and prints) and photographs. The project uses a multidisciplinary approach linking topographical views to field data, historical cartography, written sources (archival papers, guidebooks) and oral sources to develop specific research themes concerning the landscape history of the Riviera and the Alps. The use of GIS and digital visualisation software (Google Earth 3D model) will help to establish connections between the historical views and contemporary landscapes. The project will also provide a thorough biographical context for members of the British community in Italy who were amateur artists and examine the cultural significance of their art within their community and in Italy.
I hold active collaborations with Italian institutions such as the DISTAV (Department of Earth, Environment and Life Sciences) of the University of Genoa, the CNR IRPI (Italian National Research Council) of Turin and the Natural Park of Portofino.
In my PhD I focussed on amateur topographical art in Central-Easten Liguria (1770-1840) looking into the biographies and artistic production of English and Italian artists and focussing on the landscape history of the Scrivia Valley and the Eastern Riviera (Genoa, Portofino, Sestri Levante).