A new project will historically contextualise and catalogue a private collection
04 Dec 2012
Silhouette portraits, popular in Brighton during the Regency era, are the subject of a new collaboration between the Faculty of Arts and curators of the Regency Town House in Brunswick Square.
The project, which is led by Professor Lou Taylor, builds on the town's Regency heritage and is organised by staff and students in the Dress History Collective of the School of Humanities and Nick Tyson, the curator of the Regency Town House.
The project is titled Silhouettes, Fashion and Reality: 1750-1950 and is based on a large private collection of silhouettes, many of which require dating and contextualising in their specific historical and material culture settings.
Silhouettes, which could be cut from paper, or painted, were a popular form for recording portraits of both men and women, before the days of photography, and for those less able to afford the cost of painted portraits. Their heyday was 1770-1840.
Artists and makers were to be found in many seaside and spa towns, including Brighton, where a Pier Silhouette booth existed into the 1960s. Silhouettes remain an under-researched art form and thus this project will discuss and compare samples of silhouettes to surviving garments, fashion plates, catalogues and finally to early photographs drawn from the Faculty of Arts Dress History Teaching Collection in the School of Humanities and other museum collections, from St. Peter's House library and from the Rare Books Books Collection in Brighton's Jubilee Library.
Funding for the project followed a bid to University of Brighton Alumni Association's Springboard Award.
A catalogue of the silhouettes will be produced by MA and BA Fashion and Design History and Visual Culture students involved in this research which will be available for open access online. There will also be a study day held in the Design History Research Centre at Grand Parade, in June 2013.
Image: Silhouette Man c.1850. Private collection.