The Arts of Industry in the Age of Enlightenment Celina Fox

Publication date:
18 Feb 2010
Paul Mellon Centre
576 pages: 279 x 197mm
200 b-w + 60 color illus.
Sales territories:

This book is about the people who did the work. The arts of industry encompassed both liberal and mechanical realms - not simply the representation of work in the liberal or fine art of painting, but the mechanical arts or skills involved in the processes of industry itself. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Celina Fox argues that mechanics and artisans used four principal means to describe and rationalize their work: drawing, model-making, societies and publications. These four channels - which form the four central themes of this engrossing book - provided the basis for experimentation and invention, for explanation and classification, for validation and authorization, promotion and celebration, thus bringing them into the public domain and achieving progress as a true part of the Enlightenment.

The book also examines the status of the mechanical arts from the medieval period to the seventeenth century and explains the motives behind and means by which entrepreneurs, mechanics and artisans sought to present themselves to the world in portraits, and the manner in which industry was depicted in landscape and genre painting, informed by the mechanical skills of close observation and accurate draughtsmanship.

The book concludes with a look at the early nineteenth century when, despite the drive by gentlemen of science and fine artists towards specialization and exclusivity, not to mention the rise of the profession of engineers, the broad sweep of the mechanical arts retained a distinct identity within a somewhat chaotic world of knowledge for far longer than has generally been recognized. The debates their presence provoked concerning the relationship of theory to practice and the problematic nature of art and technical education are still with us today.

More about this title

Winner of the 2011 Historians of British Art Book Prize (Pre-1800 category). The Historians of British Art annually awards prizes to outstanding books on the history of British art and visual culture.

Celina Fox is an independent scholar and journalist, formerly assistant director at the Museum of London.

'Fox has raided innumerable archives for new material, but her meticulous scholarship never swamps her sensitivity to the constraints under which people worked as well as the visions to which they aspired. Copiously illustrated and lavishly produced, The Arts of Industry is a notable contribution to the interdisciplinary studies of this area that have appeared increasingly in recent years, drawing attention to aspects of British history, skills and art that have been too long overlooked.'
-Jenny Uglow, The Guardian

'Celina Fox's brilliant and beautifully illustrated opus The Arts of Industry in the Age of Enlightenment restores the connection between drawing and technology originally embedded in the very word “art”, before the Romantics turned it into a mystical effusion of genius.'
-Simon Schama, Financial Times

'Extraordinary and detailed book…A rich and readable history.'
-Tony McIntyre, Building Design

'This an important book; it alters your idea of what Georgian art might be.'
-Martin Gayford, World Of Interiors

'A beautifully produced study…. compendious, rich and enormously illuminating account…magnificent book.'
-John Brewer, Burlington Magazine

'Large, splendidly illustrated and as beautiful as an art gallery catalogue, this magnificent volume surveys with an unprecedented degree of thoroughness the relationships between the mechanical and fine arts during the long eighteenth century.'
-Patricia Fara, British Journal for the History of Science

'Fox's inclusive conspectus succeeds in delivering a swelling narrative of interlinked theory, practical endeavour and social advance not only in Britain but throughout Europe and Russia... It is a formidable contribution not only to the histories of art and industry, but also to the history of thought itself.'
-Andrew Wilton, Apollo Magazine

'A book in which the quality of illustration is matched by the depth of primary source material that has been consulted ... it provides a bench mark for scholarship as well as a cogent summary of the historiography ... this book is to be welcomed for the new lines of enquiry it reveals, and it opens out a subject too long hidden in local archives.'
-Pat Hardy, British Art Journal

'This fascinating and original book breaks away from the Left-wing politics of earlier historians of the subject (none as well informed), and provides a spirited perspective that is entirely new, exciting and grounded in the material rather than anachronistic prejudice.'
-Brian Sewell, Evening Standard

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