Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed

Cover, Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed

Edited by Martin Postle

With contributions by Clarissa Campbell Orr, Jessica David, Gillian Forrester, Charles Greig, Maya Jasanoff, Kate Retford, Robin Simon, and MaryAnne Stevens

Published by the Yale Center for British Art and the Royal Academy of Arts in association with Yale University Press

320 pages, 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches, 230 illustrations, cloth, ISBN 9780300176049

Publication date: December 6, 2011


The eighteenth-century painter Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) was an astute observer of the many social circles in which he functioned as an artist over the course of his long career. The essays and catalogue of works included in this volume, which accompanies an exhibition of the same title, investigate his sharp wit, shrewd political appraisal, and perceptive social commentary, all achieved while presenting his subjects as delightful and sophisticated members of polite society.

A skilled networker, Zoffany established himself at the court of George III and Queen Charlotte soon after his arrival in England from his native Germany. At the same time, he befriended the leading actor David Garrick and through him became the foremost portrayer of Georgian theatrical life. His brilliant effects and deft style were well suited to theatricality of all sorts, enabling him to secure patronage in England and on the Continent. Following a prolonged visit to Italy he traveled to India, where he quickly became a popular and established figure within the circle of Warren Hastings, the governor general. Zoffany’s Indian paintings are among his most spectacular; their success allowed him to return to England enriched both culturally and financially.

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