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