An overdue study of a groundbreaking event, this is the first book-length examination of the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857. Intended to rehabilitate Manchester's image at a heady time of economic prosperity, the Exhibition became a touchstone for aesthetic, social, and economic issues of the mid-nineteenth century. Reverberations of this moment can be followed to the present day in the discipline of art history and its practice in public museums of Europe and America. Highlighting the tension between art and commerce, philanthropy and profit, the book examines the Exhibition's organization and the presentation of the works of art in the purpose-built Art Treasures Palace. Pergam places the Exhibition in the context of contemporary debates about museum architecture and display. With an analysis of the reception of both "Ancient" and "Modern" paintings, the book questions the function of exhibitions in the construction of an art historical canon. The book also provides an essential reference tool: a compiled list of all of the paintings exhibited in 1857 that are now in public collections throughout the world, with an analysis of the collecting trends manifest in their provenance.
'…a notable achievement, both as a vindication of the exhibition's importance and as a work of reference.' Burlington Magazine
'…this book offers a very good account of the planning, layout, and organization of the exhibition, and art historians working on particular Old Masters might find some useful reception history… [it] will be a useful guide for future researchers…' American Historical Review
'Elizabeth A. Pergam's masterly study of the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition makes two important and distinct scholarly contributions. First, the book carries out a meticulous historical analysis of a landmark exhibition. Second, it claims to expose the origins of some assumptions embedded in today's art history. This volume offers a much needed in-depth account of the Exhibition, but its major intervention is its assessment of the event's legacies; this in turn leads to broader conclusions about the impact of the exhibitions on the discipline of art history… This is a fine book, and its contribution to these two fields - the history of exhibitions and the history of collecting - is undoubtable… The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 is essential reading for anyone studying the history of exhibitions, the history of the arts in Manchester, the history of collecting in the United States, of the history of Victorian cultural enterprise.' Victorian Studies
'Pergam's study fits in well with current trends in nineteenth-century British art scholarship, particularly its attempts to establish an alternative to the dominant Francophilic narrative by re-inserting the Art Treasures Exhibition into a history of exhibitions, which often starts with the Salon des Refusés in 1863. The focus on Manchester adds a welcome strand to the field of Victorian art history, which tends to overemphasize the importance of London… The findings of her meticulous primary research, contained within the text and the extensive appendices, will be valuable to anyone studying changes in taste and the development of art-historical discourse in mid-nineteenth-century Britain.' Art History
Contents: Introduction: the first blockbuster; Art and commerce in Manchester at mid-century; "What to see and where to see it"; Guiding and recording: from pamphlets to photography; Practicing art history; Profiting through art; Appendices; Select bibliography; Index.