Conference Paper Abstract 2: January 2005
Reputation & Reality
E.G.Stanley, sometime editor inter alia of Notes & Queries, once remarked that "In one view ... the history of scholarship is a history of error". The life and oeuvre of the marine painter Peter Monamy, 1681-1749, have been cloaked in greater error, perhaps, than any other noteworthy 18th century artist. At the same time, it would be incorrect to describe the attention he has attracted as scholarly. This paper sets out to trace his reputation in art-historical comment over the last 250 years: at first laudatory, then passing through a period of ignorance and uncertainty in the first half of the 19th century, into the positively defamatory remarks of the last 100 years. An attempt will be made to illustrate the effect of this progressive distortion, by commenting on one painting now hanging in the National Maritime Museum. The paper will incorporate an analysis of how and why these errors have arisen, and some contrast will be made with the reality of Monamy's output. It is hoped that this approach may shed some incidental light on the intrinsic character of the 18th century school of English painting.