Birkbeck, University of London. Department of History of Art.

Research expertise

Eighteenth-century British portraiture; the domestic sphere; the British country house; gender in the eighteenth century; display of art collections; the use of visual evidence in history and issues of interdisciplinarity.



Conversation piece

At around the same time as the places, practices and objects of sociability began to flourish, British portraitists started to offer a new mode of portraiture expressive of this culture. After a tentative start in the 1720s, the ‘conversation piece’ took off around 1730, thanks to artists such as William Hogarth, Gawen Hamilton, and Charles Philips. Portrayal of the sitters at full length allowed amplification of the physical gestures and interactions of sociability.