Creating The Bowes Museum: private collecting, public philanthropy and the art market in the public art museum in Britain and France 1830-1900
The School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds and The Bowes Museum are pleased to announce a funded studentship for doctoral research, awarded under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.
The Bowes Museum is a world-leading museum of essentially French fine and decorative art from the period 1500-1870, housed in an extraordinary ‘French Chateau’ constructed 1869-76 and located in County Durham at Barnard Castle. The collections were assembled by John Bowes in Britain and France, starting in the 1830s, and consolidated later from the 1850s with his wife Josephine, as a private endeavour, before John and Josephine made a deliberate and self-conscious decision to reshape their collecting activities and establish a public art museum in the early 1860s.
This shift from ‘private’ to ‘public’ involved a range of cultural, social, economic and political dynamics as they recalibrated their collecting objectives and activities, together with their patronage of contemporary artists, moving from the assembly of objects primarily shaped by personal taste to more systematic and ‘public-spirited’ collecting. This shift from ‘private’ to ‘public’ involved an increasing engagement with the discourses of a nascent art history and the evolving structures of the art market.
The proposed research project offers a unique opportunity to investigate the development of a key private-public collection as it evolved within critical cultural dialogs between Britain and France in the middle decades of the 19th century. Set against ideas of the political economy grounded in competitive notions of ‘taste’ and the perceived role and function of public art museums, the project will explore the relationships between private collecting, the art market and the development of public museums in the 19th century.
This PhD research project will utilise previously unexplored archive materials now made available following a major £12 million capital investment programme at the Bowes. The archives at the Bowes include a remarkable collection of bills, dealers’ letters and auction catalogues and an extensive range of personal correspondence of John and Josephine Bowes on their collecting and patronage activities in Britain and France, as well as documents relating to the designs for the museum and its proposed organisation.
It is envisaged that the preliminary research activities will also underpin the development of an exhibition and interpretation material and publicity in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the opening of The Bowes Museum in 2017.
This studentship will be supervised by Dr Mark Westgarth, University of Leeds, and Dr Jane Whittaker and Dr Howard Coutts at The Bowes Museum. This full time studentship is funded for three and a half years at standard AHRC rates and will begin on 1 October 2016.
The closing date for applications is 5pm on 31 May 2016.
Interviews will be held on 13 June.