Arguing in favour of renewed critical attention to the 'nation' as a category in art history, this study examines the intertwining of art theory, national identity and art production in Britain from the early eighteenth century to the present day. The book provides the first sustained account of artwriting in the British context over the full extent of its development and includes new analyses of such central figures as Hogarth, Reynolds, Gilpin, Ruskin, Roger Fry, Herbert Read, Art & Language, Peter Fuller and Rasheed Araeen. Mark A. Cheetham also explores how the 'Englishing' of art theory-which came about despite the longstanding occlusion of the intellectual and theoretical in British culture-did not take place or have effects exclusively in Britain. Theory has always travelled with art and vice versa. Using the frequently resurgent discourse of cosmopolitanism as a frame for his discourse, Cheetham asks whether English traditions of artwriting have been judged inappropriately according to imported criteria of what theory is and does. This book demonstrates that artwriting in the English tradition has not been sufficiently studied, and that 'English Art Theory' is not an oxymoron. Such concerns resonate today beyond academe and the art world in the many heated discussions of resurgent Englishness.
'In this revisionist and superbly erudite study, Mark Cheetham rigorously articulates the implicit theoretical armature of English artwriting, revealing the unacknowledged play of national and transnational themes in a body of discourse and criticism that typically attempts to obscure its conceptual and political commitments. The "imperial empiricism" that Cheetham detects among English artists and critics - from William Hogarth and Joshua Reynolds to Clive Bell, Roger Fry and beyond - emerges from the shadows with great clarity. It will no longer be possible to imagine that the English art world of the last three hundred years maintained an insular independence from concepts of "theory" that it imagined as foreign and continental.' Gary Shapiro, University of Richmond, USA
'… the book is filled with surprising observations and telling juxtapositions. Most important for the field, I suspect, will be a greater attentiveness to the vocabulary of English artwriting and a greater circumspection when the key terms in Cheetham’s title arise.' Journal of Art Historiography
'Considering art-writing, national identity and the visual arts in Britain since 1700, Cheetham engages in a stimulating discussion of how those discourses have changed along with the meaning ascribed to nation�, but also as opposed to the shifting meanings of cosmopolitan� and cosmopolitanism�.' The Eighth Lamp: Ruskin Studies Today
Contents: Introduction: Artwriting and national identity (or, no theory please, we're English); Englishness, foreignness, and Empire in British artwriting, c. 1700-1900; Indigenes, imports, and exports: Englishness in artwriting from modernism to the 21st century; Bibliography; Index.