Appel à communication : « Art and the Market in the Nineteenth Century » (La Haye, mai 2015)


Art and the Market in the Nineteenth Century (The Hague,

22-23 May 2015)

The Hague, May 22 – 23, 2015

Deadline: Dec 13, 2014

Friend or Foe: Art and the Market in the Nineteenth Century

Organized by the European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art, the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) and The Mesdag Collection, in conjunction with the exhibition on the artist, collector and gentleman-dealer Hendrik Willem Mesdag and the Dutch Watercolour Society, at The Mesdag Collection in The Hague, the publication on this illustrious artist and his different roles within the art world, and the digital reconstruction of the art collection owned by Mesdag, carried out by the Netherlands Institute for Art History (

On 1 November 1882 Vincent van Gogh wrote to the artist Anton van Rappard: ‘Pleasing, Saleable are horrible words to me. And I’ve never met a dealer who wasn’t steeped in that, and it’s a plague. Art has no greater enemies, although the managers of the big art firms have a reputation for performing a useful service by taking artists under their wing. They don’t do it right; although matters are such that, with the public coming to them, not to the artists themselves, the artists are persuaded to resort to them — yet there’s not a single artist who doesn’t have a spoken or silent complaint against them in his heart’.Confronted with the nineteenth-century rise in power of art dealers,Van Gogh evoked the typical bohemian attitude towards them as money-grubbing swindlers, to be avoided at all cost in order to make‘Real Art’, without any concessions towards the market. Van Gogh’s stance was common enough, but at the same time many artists – including, in fact, van Gogh himself – were eager to collaborate withdealers and were sometimes even prepared to surrender their artistic freedom to them. However different these positions, most artists seem to have agreed that the impact of dealers on the art world was undeniable and had to be negotiated in one way or another. Accordingly, and following Harrison and Cynthia White’s groundbreaking study of the French art world, Canvases and Careers: Institutional Change in the French Painting World, most narratives of the history of the nineteenth-century art market have assigned dealers the role of stage-managers and even puppet masters, controlling the entire artistic life-cycle of the work of art from production, distribution and promotion to consumption. Other accounts, however, have criticized such a view, stressing the agency of other actors (including artists – such as Hendrik Willem Mesdag –, art critics and collectors), pointing out differences between various nationally circumscribed markets, identifying sites of resistance towards dealers and their operations, and, more fundamentally, questioning the idea that the art market changed in any essential manner at all in the nineteenth century. The aim of this conference is to bring together case studies from a wide variety of (inter)national, chronological and artistic contexts which critically examine both the (alleged) impact of nineteenth-century art dealers on the art world and the sites of resistance towards this impact. Possible topics, including methodological and theoretical approaches, relating to the nineteenth-century art market can be:

– Commercial strategies adopted by dealers, artists or other agents;

– Dealers and other agents as mediators of taste;

– Personal and commercial relations between dealers, artists and


– Collectors’ attitudes;

– Various definitions of ‘the public’;

– Demand-driven vs. supply-driven markets;

– The role of exhibitions and exhibition strategies;

– The role of the art critic and the periodical;

– Auctions and auction houses;

– The print industry;

– The market for Old Masters vs. the market for contemporary art in the

nineteenth century;

– The market for the decorative and applied arts;

– The international role of the art dealer;

– Innovation and continuity on the nineteenth-century art market

–   …

Please send proposals (max. 300 words) for a 20-minute paper (in English) for this conference to by 13 December 2014 at the latest. Selected speakers will be contacted in the course of January 2015.

Organizing committee: Jan Dirk Baetens (Radboud University, Nijmegen), Maite van Dijk (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Mayken Jonkman (RKD, The Hague), Marjan Sterckx (Ghent University) Scientific committee: Rachel Esner (University of Amsterdam), Jenny Reynaerts (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam), Chris Stolwijk (RKD, The Hague), Louis van Tilborgh (Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam)



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