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Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845$
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Porscha Fermanis and John Regan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687084

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687084.001.0001

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‘Diamonds by which the eye is charmed’

‘Diamonds by which the eye is charmed’

Facets of Romantic Historiography in the Works of Richard Parkes Bonington

(p.179) 8 ‘Diamonds by which the eye is charmed’
Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845

Rosemary Mitchell

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers Richard Parkes Bonington’s use of ‘time-tropes’ or layers of time as a way of showing depth and movement in what was often considered a static art form: historical painting. Arguing that Bonington’s watercolours evince a fascination with both the passing and the representation of time, the chapter demonstrates that his works tend to resist generic classification and formal boundaries by being both historically specific and transcendental or timeless. The chapter subverts tidy expectations of Romantic historiography by contending that representations of history in the period are not confined to sentimental moments of ‘affective proximity’, but rather use such moments to offer complex reflections on the nature of history itself. By focusing on ‘optic dispersal’ or, in other words, on the provisional and speculative in Bonington’s work, the chapter demonstrates the extent to which he engages with the complex paradoxes of historical experience and representation.

Keywords:   Richard Parkes Bonington, historical painting, watercolours, historical time, time-tropes, genre, sentimentalism, affect, optic dispersal

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