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John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ferdinand Lammot Belin Fund. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art

38th Annual Ruth K. Shartle Symposium “American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World”

Saturday, Oct 05, 2013
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Law Building, Lower Level
1001 Bissonnet Map & Directions

The exhibition American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World offers an unprecedented opportunity for leading scholars of American and European art to consider the seminal role that Benjamin West (1738–1820) and John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) played in changing the way in which history was painted and displayed in the public spaces of 18th-century London and also in the context of the work of other artists of the period, including William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, J.M.W. Turner, and, in the new United States, Charles Willson Peale. Leading painting conservators examine the techniques employed in 18th-century artistic practice.

Symposium Schedule

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. | Morning Presentations, Followed by a Q&A

  • “Painting and Exhibition Culture in Late 18th-Century London,” Mark Hallett, director of studies, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
  • “Showcasing History: Benjamin West and his House at 14 Newman Street,” Kaylin Weber, assistant curator, American painting and sculpture, MFAH
  • “Benjamin West's Self-Portrait: Refining Iconography through Artist's Changes,” Soni Bomford, senior paintings conservator, MFAH
  • “West and Copley in the Footsteps of the Old Masters,” Lance Mayer & Gay Myers, independent conservators, New London, Connecticut

12:30 to 2 p.m. | Break for Lunch

2 to 5 p.m. | Afternoon Presentations, Followed by a Q&A

  • “Newsmakers: West, Copley, and the Reception of Contemporary History Painting in 18th-Century London,” Emily Ballew Neff, curator, American painting and sculpture, MFAH
  • “’A time of much professional jealousy’: Rivalry and Competition at the Royal Academy,” Leo Costello, associate professor and director of graduate studies, department of art history, Rice University
  • “Secrets about Recipes,” Mark Aronson, chief conservator, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University
  • “West on the Walls: Exhibiting Art in the Early United States,” Wendy Bellion, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies, department of art history, University of Delaware

5 p.m. | Reception & Catalogue Signing (Beck Building Lobby)

Questions about the content of the symposium? E-mail

Your ticket is free with general admission. Secure your seat in advance! Click the "Get Tickets" button and use your own printer; call 713.639.7771; or visit any MFAH admissions desk.

About the Annual Ruth K. Shartle Symposium
Inaugurated in 1975 by Alice Pratt Brown, a major benefactor who served 26 terms as a Museum trustee, this annual symposium was established in memory of Ruth K. Shartle, a longtime Museum benefactor. The Ruth K. Shartle Symposiums have celebrated important exhibitions such as Hispanic Art in the United States; Basquiat; and The Modern West: American Landscapes, 18901950. These events have explored key areas of the Museum’s collections and probed issues of connoisseurship, patronage, conservation, and architecture.

Education programs receive generous funding from the Kinder Foundation; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; ExxonMobil; the Favrot Fund; Michael C. Linn in memory of his mother Patricia G. Linn; the National Museum of Korea; Mrs. Evelyn Houstoun Chew; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Susanne M. and Melbern G. Glasscock; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; The Americana Foundation; The Boeing Company; An Anonymous Donor; Mr. William J. Hill; Cameron International Corporation; Houston Junior Woman’s Club; the Sterling-Turner Foundation; and The Susan Vaughan Foundation.