Lecture Series - Capturing Society: Johann Zoffany’s ‘Conversation’ Pieces In England, Italy & India

October 07, 2020

If you were unable to attend the live session, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lecture to view in your own time (from around four hours after it takes place).

My next online lecture series will take place on Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 October at 11am and will be called Art, Power & Revenge: Introducing Artemisia Gentileschi

Johann Zoffany arrived in England in 1760, young, talented and more or less unknown. By his death in 1810 he was not only widely known, a member of the Royal Academy and died a wealthy man, though achieved not without many ‘ups and downs’ in between. Over two lectures we shall discover how he prospered. Within a very few years of arrival he was an intimate of the famous actor David Garrick, many of whose celebrated roles he captured in lively depictions of the great man on stage. Thus launched, he came to the attention of the Earl of Bute who recommended him to George III and Queen Charlotte for whom he painted intimate portraits of the royal children set in the royal family’s new home at Buckingham House. He built an enviable reputation for ‘conversation’ pieces depicting his clients in relaxed mode, rather than the formal manner of his English contemporaries, Reynolds and Gainsborough. In the second lecture we discover how, recruited to accompany Captain Cook and Joseph Banks on the second voyage to the Pacific, Zoffany did not travel and instead returned to Italy with a prized commission from the Queen. This was to paint the famed ‘Tribuna’ Gallery of the Uffizi, to include all the great paintings and sculptures of the Medici collections.

He lived in Florence for almost a decade, painting many of the ‘great and good’, and on his return to London his royal patroness was not only disappointed with her painting of the ‘Tribuna’, critically for Zoffany she was also affronted. Bad enough that the painting was too full of British ‘Grand Tourists’, all of whom wanted to be included in this important image; but, many of those included were of ‘suspect’ character (too many ‘unmarried’ gentlemen, it seems!) and in Her Majesty’s opinion, not suitable persons to help furnish a royal drawing room. His hopes for a revived career in London dashed, Zoffany sailed for India where he was a tremendous success, depicting both East India Company luminaries and Indian potentates all set against exotic landscapes. Enriched by his time in the East, he returned to London and ceased to paint from 1800 onwards, dying in 1810 – ironically timed to coincide with the end of the ‘Grand Tour’ which he had so magnificently captured in the rejected ‘Tribuna’ painting.


    Register for Lecture - 7 & 14 October at 11.00   




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