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Introduction to ‘Looking for the Longitude’, our 11-day British Art Studies ‘Look First’ feature by Dr Katy Barrett

  • 14 June 2016

Over the next eleven days we will be publishing the second of our ‘Look First’ features in British Art Studies. Co-ordinated by Dr Katy Barrett, Curator of Art at the National Maritime Museum, this innovative piece investigates a pervasive eighteenth century ‘intellectual and a scientific endeavor’, which she has titled ‘Looking for the Longitude’. Selecting fourteen key images, Katy Barrett has mapped a route around London exploring the key issues and ideas surrounding ‘the longitude problem’. She plotted these points on a map and has invited subject experts to join her in ‘Looking for the Longitude’ using an intriguing trail of images and their related visual and histories.

Over the coming days, we will publish eleven responses, all corresponding to Barrett’s mapping of the longitude problem. The feature will culminate on 25th June – the anniversary of The “Hogarth Act”, which passed into law on 25 June 1734. From Katy’s first look at the esoteric detail of the madman puzzling the longitude problem in Hogarth’s, The Rake's Progress, “The Madhouse” (1733–34), the images and accounts will build up day by day, until the final work – a pirated version (After William Hogarth, He is chained raving mad in Bedlam, 1735) appears. This succession of interrelated images invites us to follow Katy Barrett on a visual journey exploring how imagery and information associated with the ‘longitude problem’ was circulated, exchanged and altered in the eighteenth century, quickly becoming enshrined in in popular culture and imagination.

We will follow Barrett’s chosen imagery and interventions through PMC News and contribute to creating an interactive Twitter tour of images and locations.

<i>Westminster and Borough of Southwark with the new additional buildings Anno 1720</i>, 1720, etching, 50.6 x 58.8 cm

S. Parker, A Plan of the City's of London, Westminster and Borough of Southwark with the new additional buildings Anno 1720, 1720, etching, 50.6 x 58.8 cm

Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum