Portraiture, caricature and visual culture in Britain, c. 1830–80

This book examines the role of political likenesses in a half-century that was crucial for the political modernisation of Britain, a two-party system that began to take shape and politicians became increasingly accountable and responsive to public opinion. Political language, especially electoral rhetoric, has been accorded considerable weight by recent studies in building broad coalitions of political support in popular and electoral politics. The book studies political likenesses, the key mode of visual politics at this time, as part of a nuanced analysis of contemporary political culture and the nature of the representative system. It examines a diverse range of material including woven silk portraiture, oil paintings, numismatics and medals, banners, ceramics, statuary and memorials as well as items printed on paper or card. After an analysis of the visual culture spawned by the reform bills of 1831-1832, the book shows how Conservative and Liberal/Reformer identities were visualised through semi-official series of portrait prints. The pictorial press, photographs and portrait testimonials, statues and memorials, MPs were venerated as independent representatives and champions of particular localities, trades, interests or issues, and not party hacks. Depictions of Lord Palmerston and his rivals, including Lord John Russell and Lord Derby, in the 1850s and 1860s often underplayed in pictorial representations to emphasise physical and political vigour. The role of political portraits and cartoons in the decade after the passing of the 1867 Representation of the People Act is also discussed.

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media and technologies.36 Portraits in the pictorial press were increasingly based on photographs from the late 1840s. Photography complemented rather than superseded existing visual media. By the late 1850s cartes de visite, photographic portraits mounted on card 2⅛ by 3½ inches in size, had become a cultural phenomenon. Millions of cartes were published, not just of contemporary celebrities but also commissioned by ordinary middle-class people. Although cartes seemed to render traditional likenesses obsolete they were a highly conservative form that borrowed heavily

in Politics personified
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, the introduction of ‘trophy’ exhibits meant that towns were often presented as emporia, the purpose of which had become primarily, if not exclusively, commercial. Over time, local leaders sought to challenge this reductive stereotype and the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 represents a divergence from former models of exhibition, both 175 Beyond the metropolis provincial and metropolitan. The image of this new model was circulated widely in souvenirs and the pictorial press, enabling Manchester to make some claim to a cultural reputation, but attempts

in Beyond the metropolis

. The pictorial press had rarely focused on party leaders exclusively before 1868, usually representing a number of election nominations, mostly in London, which were conveniently located for the Illustrated London News’s draughtsmen. The lack of clear dividing lines between parties in the 1850s and Derby’s position in the Lords (which precluded him from public campaigning or speaking during elections) had meant that cartoons on previous elections were rarely polarised in such a straightforward way. Furthermore, due to the need to wait for the new electoral registers

in Politics personified

Pictorial Press (1885) that the special artist ‘undergoes fatigues, overcomes formidable difficulties, and often incurs personal danger’, 69 Escott wrote in 1911 that the feats of Russell and Forbes made them ‘national heroes, to whose familiar laurels no fresh leaf remains to add’. 70 Leading correspondents were further publicised by inclusion in such works of reference

in Popular imperialism and the military 1850–1950

quantities and seen by more people. Wood-engraved portraits in the ILN were either based on recent photographs or portrayed politicians at public events, and were incorporated into a letterpress that provided coverage of the contemporary world. They therefore located politicians in a current context, rather than a timeless one. The phenomenally popular cartoons in Punch provided a running visual commentary on political events, and familiarised its audience with particular representations of leading politicians in the process. Equally significantly, the pictorial press and

in Politics personified
A lost epic of the reign of Victoria

exploiting what Eric Hobsbawm has described as the ‘twilight zone’ of recent history. 41 For older audiences, the film was particularly poignant in re-enacting scenes which they could remember seeing in the pictorial press. Younger audiences could witness stories from the lives of their parents and grandparents through trips arranged by school and youth organisations. Group visits of schoolchildren were

in The British monarchy on screen
MPs and portraiture

electorate, made and unmade ministries.1 Examining these images tells us much about how parliamentarians were perceived, collectively and individually, by their constituents and the broader Victorian public. National exposure in the pictorial press and portrait prints reduced the traditional delay between politicians coming to national prominence and their image being circulated. Images were therefore crucial in helping to forge national political reputations. Local representations of MPs have to be situated in the specific local political cultures that were such a

in Politics personified
Robert G. David

circulation see A. P. Wadsworth, ‘Newspaper circulations, 1800–1954’, Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Society (1954–55). 3 See M. Jackson, The Pictorial Press: Its Origin and Progress , London, Hurst & Blackett, 1885, pp. 264–83. 4

in The Arctic in the British imagination 1818–1914

manufacture, the realisation of this symbiosis between industry and culture in the physical townscape was perhaps due more to the financial rewards of enterprise than to an inherent taste for cultural improvement.79 In addition to the general pictorial press, specialist publications like The Builder and the Art Journal also contained accounts of new cultural institutions and exhibition spaces.80 Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Builder and the later, Building News, tended to focus upon the architecture of the buildings, rather than the ethos upon which such institutions were

in Beyond the metropolis