How did print interact with the media ecology between 1700 and 1900?
Cultural Practices of Intermediality addresses this question through two case studies: the stage and the visual arts. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, print proliferated in the theatrical and artistic realms, whether in books, magazines, libretti, playbills or printed images, to name but a few examples.
The print items curated for this exhibition were selected for their sometimes explicit, and frequently implicit engagement with other media. The Beggar’s Opera, for instance, was advertised on playbills and referenced in popular printed works. Its script and musical score were also available to the public in relatively affordable booklets. Catalogues and livrets de Salon were printed to accompany art exhibitions. Patrons used these not only to identify the works on display, but also to scribble down notes and to make sketches of the gallery items and environment as well.
Cultural Practices of Intermediality explores the emergence of the increasingly widespread media ecology in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The exhibition will appeal to those with an interest in print and, we hope, encourage further reflection on how print engaged with a complex array of other communication interfaces during this period.
Print that centered on a theatrical production connected, engaged with, and renegotiated the performance arts, like drama and opera. The potentially ephemeral playbill, for example, was an important source of information about popular cultural events. Its striking graphic design allowed it to weave theatrical events like The Beggar’s Opera into the fabric of society. Libretti and musical scores demonstrate how print helped to link people to performances, allowing individuals to engage intimately with productions. Similarly, images of actors like David Garrick, whether in role or formal portrait, not only spread but also established his celebrity. These different printed media reached wide audiences, often crossing social, spatial and temporal boundaries.
The Visual Arts
In the field of the visual arts, print negotiated the interrelationships between people and a proliferation of media, from exhibition catalogues to Academy lectures. These printed texts mediated the complex social interactions within exhibition spaces like the Salon at the Louvre and the Great Room at Somerset House. The exhibition catalogue, for example, acted as a kind of interactive tool, which patrons could use to engage directly with the subject or content of art works. At the same time, publications of Academicians’ printed lectures, like those by Sir Joshua Reynolds and John Opie, influenced developments in fine arts practices in France, Britain and beyond.