Solkin, David H. 1951-

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SOLKIN, David H. 1951-

PERSONAL: Born March 16, 1951, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; widowed; children: Benjamin, Mia. Education: Harvard College, B.A. (magna cum laude) 1972; Courtauld Institute of Art, M.A. (with distinction) 1974; Yale University, Ph.D., 1978.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada, assistant professor, 1978-83, associate professor, 1983-6; Courtauld Institute of Art, lecturer, 1986-93, reader 1993-2002, professor, 2002—; Arts and Humanities Research Board postgraduate panel in art and design, assessor. Member of advisory panel and publications committee, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; guest curator, "Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836," Courtauld Institute Gallery, 2001.

AWARDS, HONORS: Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada research fellowship; Leverhulme research fellowship; University College, London, Neale Lectureship in British History; Berger Prize for Excellence in British Art History, for "Art on the Line."


Richard Wilson: The Landscape of Reaction, Tate Gallery (London, England), 1982.

Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1993.

(Editor) Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780-1836, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2001.

Author has written numerous articles.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Book on early-nineteenth-century British genre painting; exhibition of Turner and the Masters, scheduled 2007, Tate Gallery, London; Pelican History of British Art.

SIDELIGHTS: Eighteenth-century England experienced the development of a distinctly forward-looking art world in which artworks began to be displayed in public forums, art issues became topics of discussion and conversation, and artists responded to the diverse tastes of a large population of art consumers. David Solkin's book, Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England, describes and investigates these trends, addressing how English art evolved with burgeoning economic growth. Rose Marie San Juan noted in the American Historical Book Review that "In attempting to locate the production of visual culture within a shifting discourse of politeness, this study . . . finds a way to open an era of art history that has been a stronghold for the discipline's insular tendencies. Here painting is not ensconced in a separate sphere reserved for art, but participates in a complex process of negotiation that sought to reconcile the acceleration of commerce and consumption with the established ideology of civic humanism. David H. Solkin shows how this process was reproduced and readjusted through different institutions and social interests, and through multiple forms of representation." Ronald Paulson wrote in the London Review of Books, "Solkin has made an intelligent effort to get at the social dimension of the paintings through the analysis of contemporary writings. He also has an acute enough eye that he can sometimes override the texts in favour of the visual evidence."

Solkin compiled Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780-1836 to accompany the ambitious 2001-2002 exhibition of some 300 works of art, originally displayed by London's Royal Academy, founded in 1768 with the support of King George III. In 1780 the Academy moved into the palatial Somerset House, built on the Strand along the Thames River by William Chambers. That year the Academy held its twelfth-annual art exhibition in the House's Great Room—one of the first spaces built specifically to exhibit the works of the masters of the day—and did so for the next fifty-seven years. As Richard Dorment explained in the New York Review of Books, the Great Room was "High, square, and oddly proportioned, it is this space—and how painters responded to it—that provides the key to understanding why British pictures look the way they do. For ambitious British artists . . . adjusted their painting styles, their compositions, their use of color, and even their choice of subject matter to ensure that their work would be seen to advantage there." Somerset House thus became the hub of London's artistic community, until the Academy moved to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in 1836.

In the recently restored Fine Rooms on the top floor of Somerset House, which now houses the Courtauld Institute of Art—of which the Great Room is the focal point—the Courtauld recreated what a contributor to Absolute Arts Web site called "the golden age of British art." Works for the exhibition, originally displayed there by the Royal Academy, were loaned from public and private collectors world wide, as well as several from Her Majesty the Queen, who agreed to be patron of the exhibition. Jack Perry explained in his Library Journal review that paintings were exhibited in the Great Room in the original format, frame-to-frame, and from floor to ceiling. The most important ones were hung "on the line," defined by a wall moulding that circles the room at eye level. Of the book, Perry stated that the authors examine "With remarkably little overlap . . . the physical nature of the exhibition; the audience, publicity, and publications; . . . and more."



American Historical Review, December 1994, Rose Marie San Juan, review of Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England, p. 92.

Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Jack Perry, review of Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780-1836, p. 92.

London Review of Books, November 4, 1993, Ronald Paulson, "Crossed Palettes," p. 42.

New York Review of Books, June 13, 2002, Richard Dorment, review of Art on the Line, p. 32.

Times Literary Supplement, November 19, 1993, Pat Rogers, "Codes of Refinement," p. 11.


Absolute Arts Web site, (October 22, 2002) "In-depth Art News: 'Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836'."

Yale University Press Web site, (October 22, 2002).