Johan Zoffany RA Society Observed Martin Postle

Publication date:
14 Oct 2011
Yale University Press
320 pages: 292 x 241mm
225 color + 5 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


The 18th-century painter Johan Zoffany (1733-1810) was an astute observer of the many social circles in which he functioned as an artist over the course of his long career. This catalogue investigates his sharp wit, shrewd political appraisal, and perceptive social commentary (including subtle allusions to illicit relationships) - all achieved while presenting his subjects as delightful and sophisticated members of polite society.

A skilled networker, Zoffany established himself at the court of George III and Queen Charlotte soon after his arrival in England from his native Germany. At the same time, he befriended the leading actor David Garrick and through him became the foremost portrayer of Georgian theatre. His brilliant effects and deft style were well suited to theatricality of all sorts, enabling him to secure patronage in England and on the continent. Following a prolonged visit to Italy he travelled to India, where he quickly became a popular and established member within the circle of Warren Hastings, the governor-general. Zoffany's Indian paintings are among his most spectacular and allowed him to return to England enriched and warmly welcomed. This volume provides a sparkling overview of his finest works.

More about this title

This book accompanies the exhibition Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed, which will be showing at the following venues:
Yale Center for British Art (Thursday, October 27, 2011–Sunday, February 12, 2012)
• Royal Academy of Arts, London (10 March - 10 June 2012)

Martin Postle is assistant director for academic activities at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. He was formerly a curator at Tate Britain.

"This is a volume to enjoy first and foremost as a visual feast."—Andrew Green, Classical Music

"The be-all and end-all of a book…weaving his life into his art and both into the several societies in which he moved."—Brian Sewell, Evening Standard

Page spreads