An Eye for Art

The Regency era (1792 – 1830) in England saw the rise of the first professional art critics who were wealthy connoisseurs or collectors like Richard Payne Knight (fine eye for erotica) and journalists like William Hazlitt. Trained as a painter Hazlitt had first hand knowledge of the technical and aesthetic challenges artists faced. He contributed to monthly periodicals such as the London Magazine helping collectors become more knowledgeable about the technical aspects of ancient and modern art. Concerns with authentication and aesthetics created a persistent tension. Painter Johann Zoffany (1733 – 1810) recorded Sir William Hamilton, Payne Knight, CM Cracherode and Charles Townley examining sculptures, vases and paintings later donated to found the British Museum. Townley said ‘In every art good models give birth to ideas by exciting the imagination; theory furnishes the means of expressing those ideas, practice puts these means in execution and this last part…is also the easiest’

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