Curated by Misty Anderson, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee
and Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings, the Lewis Walpole Library
Religious beliefs and practices provided ample subject matter for the irreverent printmakers producing graphic satire in eighteenth-century Britain. While clerical satire is an ancient mode, eighteenth-century British artists seized on it with fresh vigor. Satirists appropriated centuries-old themes like corruption, hypocrisy, and greed, but updated them with contemporary concerns about the role of religion in the age of enlightenment. The visual rhetoric of these prints illustrates some of the ways in which eighteenth-century Britons were renegotiating their relationship to religious practice and belief.
The prints in this exhibition reflect a tension between a vision of religion as part of traditional life and the emergence of modern Christianity as a collection of new movements, practices, and ideas about belief. The eighteenth-century images on display preserve for us a moment in an ongoing conversation about the relationship of religion, representation, and modernity.