07 Jul, 2009

Berger Prize Winner 2008 (awarded 2009)

Posted by: admin In: British Art Blog

The WINNER of the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History 2008 (books published 1 September 2007-31 August 2008) was announced at a reception hosted by Robin Simon, Editor of The British Art Journal, at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art on 2 July 2009.

The winner is Thomas P Campbell for
Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty. Tapestries at the Tudor Court
440pp, hb £45, ISBN 9780300122343
Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

The assessors remarked:
‘This was… almost a perfect book containing an incredible amount of research of all kinds, not only archival but on
every piece of tapestry. A wonderful and great work of detection and reconstruction, when something like 90% of the
material in question had been lost, and yet it still came up with a convincing analysis. The book is of great importance
to historians and political scientists as well as to art historians… It has repositioned tapestry where it always
belonged, at the centre of courtly patronage. The book ranged across major questions about the reign of Henry VIII
and his view of monarchy with immense tact and skill.’

The other five titles on the SHORT LIST were as follows:

Robert Hoozee, ed
British Vision: Observation and Imagination in British Art 1750-1950
424 pp, hb £39, isbn 978-9061537489 Mercatorfonds / Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent
‘For once, here was a catalogue which matched in physical weight its ideas and originality. Robert Hoozee has been
thinking about British art for many years, and here are the fruits of his considerable and profound experience.
Remarkably, for an exhibition held in Belgium, this exhibition has done as much for British art as any show in
Britain over the past decade. Hoozee mined (at times obscure) collections throughout the UK to reveal a unique
strand in British art which, as the title of the book states, combines observation and imagination. It ought to become
an essential text for anyone wishing to understand British art and visual culture over the past two hundred years.’
The assessors wanted to stress the splendour of the very large exhibition, held in Ghent, which featured telling and
often startling conjunctions, and ranged right through, convincingly, to the late twentieth century.

Nicholas Tromans
David Wilkie: The People’s Painter
320pp, hb £65, ISBN 978-0748625208. Edinburgh University Press
‘… A most intelligent and persuasive account of the artist. As the author states, it is a biographical study which
aspires to be a social study of the artist’s career. It achieves both aims admirably. The prose is clear, at times amusing,
and the book is extremely well written, a good read – a rare thing these days among academic texts. The biography is
intriguing and the monographic aspect of the book brought most of Wilkie’s works together for the first time. A major
achievement for which both the author and publisher deserve congratulations and gratitude.’

Jason Rosenfeld and Alison Smith
272 pp, hb £35, ISBN 978 185437 746 3. Tate Publishing
‘The catalogue, like the exhibition, brings together a remarkable selection of images that poses important questions
about British art of the period and the course it took in the hands of such an outstanding painter, who was evidently
aware of contemporary European developments but yet trapped within a distinct aesthetic and cultural world.
Confronted some basic problems about British art. It absolutely forces people to take Millais far more seriously, even if,
finally, the enigma remains. It was an especially rewarding exhibition and the catalogue will endure.’

Elizabeth Prettejohn
Art for Art’s Sake. Aestheticism in Victorian Painting
320 pp, hb £35, ISBN 978-0300135497. Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for
Studies in British Art
‘… addressed the important question of British modernism by taking the starting point back in time. Ambitious and
original, full of sharp insights and fresh material. A really important book that offers a way forward for much further
research and reflection, and which also considered the topics in hand in an international context. Informed by
German idealism, and the writings of Pater and Swinburne, aestheticism in this account is not the trivial and
decadent fashion satirized in Punch, but a revolutionary movement that freed British painting from the relentless
march of modern commercialism and industrial notions of progress. The author’s provocative analyses of the work of
Solomon, Moore, Burne-Jones and Pater especially are revelatory and change how we view these artists and writers.’

David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor, ed
Thomas Hope Regency Designer
520pp, hb £50, ISBN 978-0300124163. Yale University Press for The Bard Graduate Center for
Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture
‘As close to the definitive work on Hope as we are ever likely to get, and it will remain the standard work. A
tremendous amount of research and fresh and intiruging material, amplifying David Watkin’s earlier endeavours on
the subject. The book firmly establishes Hope as one of the most influential designers and illuminates every aspect of
his wide interests. Wonderful. A seductive publication produced to the highest standards… it is difficult to see how a
catalogue on this subject could look much better.’

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