Past Exhibitions

James Gillray’s Hogarthian Progresses

April 6 through September 16, 2016

Curated by
Cynthia Roman
Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings, the Lewis Walpole Library

Sequential narration in satiric prints is most famously associated with the “modern moral subjects” of William Hogarth (1697–1764): Harlot’s Progress (1732), A Rake’s Progress (1735), Marriage A-la-Mode (1745), andIndustry and Idleness (1747) among others. Less well-known is the broad spectrum of legacy “progresses” produced by subsequent generations drawing both on Hogarth’s narrative strategies and his iconic motifs. James Gillray (1756–1815), celebrated for his innovative single-plate satires, was also among the most accomplished printmakers to adopt Hogarthian sequential narration even as he transformed it according to his unique vision. This exhibition presents a number of Gillray’s Hogarthian progresses alongside some selected prints by Hogarth himself.

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Bawdy Bodies: Satires of Unruly Women

September 24, 2015 through February 26, 2016

Co-curated by Hope Saska, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, University of Colorado Art Museum

and, Cynthia Romanm, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings, the Lewis Walpole Library with contributions by Jill Campbell (Department of English, Yale University)

Characterized by comically grotesque figures performing lewd and vulgar actions, bawdy humor provided a poignant vehicle to target a variety of political and social issues in eighteenth-century Britain. Bawdy Bodies: Satires of Unruly Women explores the deployment of this humorous but derisive strategy toward the regulation of female behavior. The exhibition presents satirical images of women from a range of subject categories including the royal family, aging members of fashionable society, disparaged mothers, political activists, gamblers, medical wonders, artists, performers, and intellectuals.

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Prospects of Empire: Slavery and Ecology in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain

November 17, 2014 - May 1, 2015

Curated by Heather V. Vermeulen
Doctoral Candidate in African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University


Hazel V. Carby
Charles C. & Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies and Professor of American Studies, Yale University

“Prospects of Empire: Slavery and Ecology in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain” explores the notion of empire’s “prospects”—its gaze upon bodies and landscapes, its speculations and desires, its endeavors to capitalize upon seized land and labor, as well as its failures to manage enslaved persons and unruly colonial ecologies. It reads latent anxieties in the policing of bodies and borders, both in the colonies and in the metropole, and examines the forces that empire mustered to curtail perceived threats to its regimes of power and knowledge. In addition to the focus on material from the long eighteenth century, the exhibition features a selection of four lithographs from Joscelyn Gardner’s series Creole Portraits III: “bringing down the flowers” (2009-11), a recent joint acquisition by the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery. Gardner’s work mines the eighteenth-century Jamaica archive of white English immigrant, overseer, slaveowner, and pen-keeper Thomas Thistlewood, one of whose diaries is on loan from the Beinecke.

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A Collection’s Progress: The Lewis Walpole Library, 2000-2014

Curated by Margaret K. Powell
W.S. Lewis Librarian and Executive Director, the Lewis Walpole Library 

April 14 - October 3, 2014

When Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis left his library to Yale in 1979 Lewis thought of his gift not as a finished monument but as a living thing that required growth and change lest it become, in his words, “static and moldy.”  The exhibition presents materials selected from the LWL’s collecting successes of the last fourteen years. Together the objects on display argue forcefully for the Library’s conquest of stasis and mold, and each speaks eloquently of another time, its politics and conflicts, its arts, fashions, and pastimes.

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Emma Hamilton Dancing

Curated by John Cooper 
Clare-Mellon Fellow in the History of Art, Yale University

October 16, 2013 - April 4, 2014

In 1794 the dancing and Attitudes, or expressive postures, performed by Emma Hamilton (1761?-1815) were rendered in twelve neoclassical images engraved by Thomas Piroli after drawings by Frederick Rehberg. After the death of her husband Sir William Hamilton in 1803 and that of her lover Admiral Lord Nelson in 1805, Emma Hamilton and her Attitudes were the subject of a second, ‘enlarged’ edition of parodies by James Gillray in 1807 in which her person was dramatically inflated. Emma Hamilton Dancing displays these two editions beside each other for the first time.

Emma Hamilton Dancing presents these Attitudes among images of the tarantella, the waltz, minuet, cotillion, and quadrille as well as prints of ballet dancing in the age of the ballet d’action and works on the theory and practice of dancing. In this context, the Attitudes are seen moving within the world of dancing in ballrooms and onstage in Europe during the era of revolution in America, France and the Kingdom of Naples.

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“In the Midst of the Jovial Crowd”: Young James Boswell in London, 1762–1763

Curated by James Caudle, The Associate Editor, Yale Edition of the Private Papers of James Boswell

April - October 4, 2013

In autumn 1762, the ambitious, clever, jovial, and bumptious twenty-two-year-old Scotsman James Boswell traveled south from Edinburgh to London to seek his fortune in the capital. In his lively journal, he recorded his extraordinarily action-packed eight months there, and his efforts to become a permanent Londoner.

London in the Sixties (the 1760s) was a thrilling place, full of pleasures and dangers, wisdom and folly, high life and low life. This exhibition aspires to place visitors ‘in the midst of the jovial crowd’ in which young James Boswell felt so alive and happy. Prints by Hogarth and Rowlandson and others, and rare books and ballads, will bring to life the current events, everyday social life, and personalities celebrated in Boswell’s London Journal, unpublished until 1950, but now one of the best-loved works of eighteenth-century life-writing.

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Dancing on a Sunny Plain: the Life of Annie Burr Auchincloss Lewis

Curated by Susan Odell Walker, Head of Public Services

October 29, 2012 – March 22, 2013

Celebrating their twentieth anniversary, Annie Burr Auchincloss Lewis (1902 – 1959) used Horace Walpole’s words to describe her partnership with Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis: “Life seems to me as if we were dancing on a sunny plain.” Annie Burr certainly shared her husband’s informed enthusiasm for Walpole, but her legacy extends beyond her well-known role as W.S. Lewis’s wife and partner. A gifted photographer and cataloger, she dedicated herself to family and friends, philanthropy and service. This exhibition, on view in Farmington through early 2013, explores her remarkable life through material selected from the Library’s rich archives.

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The exhibition brochure was awarded The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) 2014 Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab “American Book Prices Current” Exhibition Award in the Division Three category.

“The God of Our Idolatry”: Garrick and Shakespeare

Curated by Margaret K. Powell, W. S. Lewis Librarian and Executive Director


Joseph R. Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and English

March 12 – August 8, 2012

“The God of Our Idolatry”: Garrick and Shakespeare, showed off the extraordinary contribution the actor David Garrick, arguably the eighteenth century’s greatest man of the theatre, made to the age’s understanding of Shakespeare.  Displaying printed texts, manuscript letters, drawings, prints, and portraits, the exhibition illustrated how, on stage and off, Garrick influenced the public’s view of Shakespeare, inspiring what Bernard Shaw later called “bardolatry.”

This exhibition was presented in connection with Shakespeare at Yale, a semester of events celebrating the Bard. 

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Sacred Satire:  Lampooning Religious Belief in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Curated by Misty Anderson, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee

and Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings, the Lewis Walpole Library

September 22, 2011 - March 2, 2012

Religious beliefs and practices provided ample subject matter for the irreverent printmakers producing graphic satire in eighteenth-century Britain. While clerical satire is an ancient mode, eighteenth-century British artists seized on it with fresh vigor. Satirists appropriated centuries-old themes like corruption, hypocrisy, and greed, but updated them with contemporary concerns about the role of religion in the age of enlightenments. The visual rhetoric of these prints illustrates some of the ways in which eighteenth-century Britons were renegotiating their relationship to religious practice and belief.

The prints in this exhibition reflect a tension between a vision of religion as part of traditional life and the emergence of modern Christianity as a collection of new movements, practices, and ideas about belief. The eighteenth-century images on display preserve for us a moment in an ongoing conversation about the relationship of religion, representation, and modernity.

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Illustrious Heads: Portrait Prints as History

November 22, 2010 - September 7, 2011

curated by Cynthia Roman

Engraved “heads,” or portrait prints, in close alliance with literary history and biography, carried substantial power as expressions of political and social preoccupations in eighteenth-century England. Published for both book illustration and independent issue, with and without text, portrait prints recorded and articulated a national past that was conceived as the “portraiture” of illustrious historical persons—a visual and literary representation of a sequence of notable individuals—rather than as a narrative representation of a series of significant political, diplomatic, or military events. Additionally, straight portraits—and increasingly caricatures—of contemporary persons played a vital role in negotiating topical political and social issues and documenting the surrounding discourse for posterity. The prints selected for this exhibition suggest the variety of portrait and caricature publications and present some of the diverse ways in which they were considered as repositories of history, biography, and anecdote. The exhibition also explores the engagement of eighteenth-century audiences with questions of sitter classification, authenticity, provenance, and scarcity.

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Collection Highlights: Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books 

May 3, 2010 - October 29, 2010

curated by Cynthia Roman

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Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill

October 15, 2009, - January 3, 2010 Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 
March 6 - July 4, 2010 Victoria and Albert Museum, London 
Organized by The Lewis Walpole Library, the Yale Center for British Art, and the V&A 
The exhibition catalogue was awarded the 2012 Philip Johnson Exhibition Catalogue Award by the Society of Architectural Historians

 Works of Genius: Amateur Artists in Walpole’s Circle

September 28, 2009 - March 19, 2010

curated by Cynthia Roman

An influential writer, collector and historian of art, Horace Walpole (1717-1797) was also a great champion of art produced by persons who were ‘not artists’—perhaps best translated today as non-professional or amateur artists.

Works by amateur artists were a vital part of Walpole’s collection and were hung prominently and in great number at his famous house Strawberry Hill. This exhibition presented work on paper by Walpole and members of his closest circle, including Henry William Bunbury, John Chute, Richard Bentley, Lady Diana Beauclerk, Lady Hamilton, and Mary Berry.

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