BASF Lecture

In his paper, Matthew Potter will explore the role played by the historical imagination of British art historians and artists in the Victorian period in reconstructions of the lives of German Renaissance artists. Their research into and representations of the artistic lives of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Younger, and the ‘Little Masters’ provide important insights into the intellectual life of Britain at that time. Key works such as William Bell Scott’s Albrecht Dürer on the Balcony of his House (1854) and John Evan Hodgson’s Sir Thomas More and his Daughters in Holbein’s Studio (1861) will be explored in order to reveal how historicist and ‘archaeological’ techniques were employed to re-create ‘authentic’ visions of the lives of these celebrated German artists. Their activities will also be considered as part of the on-going construction of national cultural identities as part of an international dialogue. The interest in these iconic German artists taken by British art historians and artists will therefore be set against the context of evolving and competing conceptions for art history and cultural politics in Germany, and the valuable lessons to be learnt from these by British observers.


Matthew Potter is a Professor in Art and Design History at Northumbria University. He researches the role of visual culture in the construction of national identities and international artistic exchange, as well as the histories of art education, and political cartoons. Anglo-German transfer is a long-term interest of his, resulting in, for example, The Inspirational Genius of Germany: British Art and Germanism, 1850-1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012); ‘Breaking the shell of the Humanist egg: Kenneth Clark’s University of London Lectures on German Art Historians’, Journal of Art Historiography 11 (2014), pp.1-34: []; and ‘“Bold Liberals Who Fought for the Cause of Freedom”: The German Reception of the Graphic Satires of James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson at the Fin De Siècle (1895–1908)’, Visual Culture in Britain 20.2 (2019), pp.172-193.

School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

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