The Discipline of Pleasure; or, How Art History Looks at the Art Museum

Colin Trodd


The central aim of this essay is to generate a critically detailed and fully historicised reading of one specific example of the institutionalisation of visual culture. By attending to its complexity as an aesthetic, social and managerial space, I want to examine how the act of seeing was inscribed in a body of material concerned with the National Gallery (NG) in mid-Victorian London. Addressing the language of exhibition, this essay deals with a form of commentary where writing about the public display of art becomes another way of exploring the mnemonic or kinetic qualities of space. This work asks: what is caught in this fascination with the spatial logics of the gallery? What is formed by the development of an institutional process which seeks the ideal illumination of art? What is registered in the new systems of visual authority that begin to emerge in the 1840s and 1850s? What is caught, blocked or displayed by this new interest in seeing in the NG a visual network of interlocking narratives about the historical development of art?

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Copyright (c) 2015 Colin Trodd

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