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Matthew Boulton and Francis Eginton’s mechanical paintings: production and consumption 1777 to 1781

Fogarty, Barbara (2011)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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The mechanical paintings of Matthew Boulton and Francis Eginton have been the subject of few scholarly treatises since their invention in the 1770s. Such interest as there has been has focussed on the unknown process, and the lack of scientific material analysis has resulted in several confusing theories of production. This thesis’s use of the Archives of Soho, containing Boulton’s business papers, has cast light on the production and consumption of mechanical paintings, while collaboration with the British Museum, and their new scientific evidence, have both supported and challenged the archival evidence. This thesis seeks to prove various propositions about authenticity, the role of class and taste in the selection of artists and subjects for mechanical painting reproduction, and the role played by the reproductive process’s ingenuity in marketing the finished product. Mechanical paintings were symptomatic of wider eighteenth-century concerns – imitation leading to invention, the transfusion of existing technologies, and the role of cultural goods in marking distinction and social class. This thesis’s study of these discourses has shed a light on the development of mechanical paintings, but equally, Boulton and Eginton’s reproduction of oil pictures has provided new insights into the role of ingenuity and taste-formation in eighteenth-century Britain.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Clay, Richard
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Art History
Subjects:ND Painting
N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1545
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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