York/National Gallery CDA Holder: Nicola Sinclair (2012-2016)
Dr Nicola Sinclair was a Collaborative Doctoral Award holder from 2012-2016 for her thesis on 'Early German Art in the National Gallery and Beyond: The Case of the Krüger Collection and its Reception in Britain in the Latter Half of the 19th Century', co-supervised by Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein (University of York) and Dr Susan Foister (National Gallery).
In July 2015, Nicola was awarded a Doctoral Fellowship of the University of York Humanities Research Council for her research presentation on 'An Uneasy Fit: Early German Painting and New Frameworks of Value in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Britain.'
She was awarded her PhD in April 2016.
Here, Nicola talks about her research and shares some of the highlights of her experience as a CDA research student.
The focus of my research was the National Gallery collection of early German paintings acquired in the 1850s and 60s, and specifically those purchased with the Krüger collection in 1854. I examined how the reception of these paintings in Britain both illustrated and shaped the difficulties of accommodating early German paintings into emerging art historical discourse, into methods of public and private display, and onto the art market. The acquisition, display, rejection and dispersal of the Krüger collection reveal the complex interplay of practical, ideological and aesthetic decision-making that shaped the nation’s collections and perceptions of art history and had long-term implications.
Paintings in the Krüger collection included:
- Fragments of the Liesborn Altarpiece by the Master of Liesborn (dated c. 1475-80), including this one of The Annunciation
- Fragments of the Liesborn Altarpiece, by Jan Baegert (dated c. 1520), including this one of The Coronation of the Virgin, now in the National Gallery:
- Fragments of the Bielefeld Marienaltar by the Master of the Berswordt Altarpiece (dated c. 1400), including this Crucifixion, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
- Gert van Lon's Madonna of the Rosary, (dated 1512-20) now in Kings College Chapel, Cambridge.
Here is a photo (of mine) of the remains of the Bielefeld Marienaltar in situ in the Neustadt Marienkirch, Bielefeld. The central portion has remained in the church there since 1400, but most of the wing fragments were bought by the British government for the National Gallery, were rejected for display there, and were dispersed on the British art market. Those seen here have since been re-purchased for the church.
This is a photo of a panel by Gert van Lon that was also bought for the National Gallery but rejected for display and re-sold in Britain. Since 1931 it has been in King's College Chapel, Cambridge.
- Research trips to Germany in 2013 and 2015 to see paintings in collections or still in situ in churches. Many of these works are rarely available outside Germany. I interacted with key scholars and curators in museums in Münster, Berlin and Liesborn who gave me access to paintings and archives.
- 2014: Helped curate the National Gallery exhibition, Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance, including: overseeing a virtual reconstruction of the Liesborn Altarpiece; curating a display of acquisition archives; writing exhibition labels; and contributing to the audio guide.
- March 2014: Presented my paper "Early German Paintings at the National Gallery and Beyond: The Case of the Krüger Collection" at a graduate student symposium in the National Gallery based on the exhibition.
- Presented the Krüger paintings during the workshop for scholars on the exhibition.
- October 2014: Gave Hepworth Lecture to 6th-form students at Wakefield Girls’ High School as part of their enrichment programme: "Scandal at the Gallery: The Art of Deciding What Belongs in Our National Collection of Paintings."
- March 2015: gave a paper at York Postgraduate Art History Conference on the theme of Authority, "'Whoever was responsible for that purchase… the worst ever made…' Authority and the Mid-Nineteenth-Century National Gallery."
- July 2015: Talk given at seminar for CDA students and supervisors at the National Gallery, "Early German Art at the National Gallery and Beyond: The Case of the Krüger Collection and Its Reception in Britain, c.1850s-1900." This update on my research showed how the reception of the Krüger collection in Britain illustrated and shaped the difficult place early German (as opposed to Italian) paintings had in emerging art-historical discourse and new public galleries.
- July 2015: Awarded Doctoral Fellowship of the University of York Humanities Research Council for presentation on my research, "An Uneasy Fit: Early German Painting and New Frameworks of Value in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Britain."
- February 2016: York Historical Society talk, "Altarpiece Treasure to Outhouse Junk: The Thorny Reception of Early German Paintings in Britain.” A talk aimed at non-specialist art enthusiasts.
- June 2016: Paper given at international conference in Compton Verney, Visions of the North: Reinventing the Germanic North in Nineteenth-Century Art and Visual Culture in Britain and the Low Countries, "'A bastardised and soulless school': Finding a Place for 15th and Early-16th-Century Cologne and Westphalian Painting in British Accounts of Art History 1840s-1880s."
- July 2016: Brief update on completion of PhD at CDA seminar, National Gallery for CDA/CDP students and supervisors, highlighting the difficulties and joys of writing up your thesis.