Six months ago when I was nominated to be the editor-in-chief of the North Street Review, I was given a binder, a gmail password, and a brief to create an edition of our post-graduate art history journal. Six months, hundreds of cups of tea, and a destroyed heater later, the North Street Review has officially entered the digital age with a full online presence- at the ripe age of nineteen. It is a remarkable journal that, through its incarnations as Inferno and the Journal of Post Graduate Art History and Museum Studies, reflects the evolution of the Department’s post-graduate community as well.
Our theme, ‘Modulating Materiality’, owes its conception to a long collaboration we have with Museum and Galleries Studies. Even as many of our postgraduates address the theory of art history and philosophy, by far the majority of our research currently leans towards materiality. In effect, we all have to navigate the perilous academic waters between theory and the object. We searched, in vain, for an art work that would accurately encompass this modulation, and so artist Andrew Boerder created a beautiful cover that reflects our state of academic flux, heralding in the North Street Review’s digital age.
Editing this journal has offered this researcher a rare opportunity to branch out and study other subjects, and work on a collaborative project. Contributions to this edition have come from all over the world, and in addition to corresponding with academics in the United States, Argentina, Portugal, and the UK, we are pleased to publish five distinct articles.
Vanessa Badagliacca (New University of Lisbon) offers a wonderful introduction to recent studies on materiality. Her article, ‘On Matters, Materiality, and Materialism Entanglements with Art History’ contextualizes materiality and how it emerged as a significant area of study for art historians, particularly in the last two decades. Then, beginning with the Italian Renaissance, Bryn Schockmel examines the works of the famous Italian Renaissance painter in relation to the marriage for which they were originally intended, in ‘To Each His (or Her) Own: Piero di Cosimo’s Bacchanals for the Palazzo Vespucci’. Schockmel highlights how the Bacchanals were an integral part of the décor indented to celebrate Vespucci-Nerli marriage at the Palazzo Vespucci in 1500. We then jump forward in time, as Sophie Handler addresses the images of children in nineteenth-century England and France in ‘Fabricating Innocence and Fashioning Sexuality: The Material Culture of the Female Child in Nineteenth Century British and French Art’. As she explains, these images exemplify the contradictory views on childhood that were innate in Western culture. At once children were pure and wild, innocent and sexual, paradoxes that are manifest in works by Auguste Renoir, Robert Huskisson, John Simmons, John Everett Millais, Henry Fuseli, and Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll. Maria Golovteeva’s article reflects her larger body of work on nineteenth century artist Fernand Khnopff. In ‘Forming the Symbolist Identity: the Materiality of Fernand Khnopff’s Sculptures’ she addresses the material aspects of his work, which encompassed a vast array of materials, including ivory, wax, plaster, and marble. Finally, Sophie Kromholz explores the vulnerability of art materials in ‘Living in the Material World: Making Sense of Material Matters in Relation to Temporary Artworks’. While the public is aware of eroding frescos and retouched masterpieces, here Kromholz writes about artworks that are made from perishable materials and questions ideas of authenticity and conservation, and the intent of the author.
With this, we hope to encourage collaboration and research among post-graduates across the UK and beyond, and- as I pass the torch to future editors- hope that the next edition will receive equally wonderful submissions.
Valentina S. Grub