Making the Modern Artist explores the myths and realities of the origins of the "modern artist" in Britain.
The artist has been a privileged figure in the modern age, embodying ideals of personal and political freedom and self-fulfilment. Does it matter who gets to be an artist? And do our deeply held beliefs stand up to scrutiny?
Art historian and curator Martin Myrone gets to the root of these questions by exploring the historical genesis of the figure of the artist. Based on an unprecedented biographical survey of almost 1,800 students at the Royal Academy of Arts in London between 1769 and 1830, the book reveals hidden stories about family origins, personal networks and patterns of opportunity and social mobility. Locating the emergence of the "modern artist" in the crucible of Romantic Britain, rather than in nineteenth-century Paris or twentieth-century New York, it reconnects the story of art with the advance of capitalism and demonstrates surprising continuities between liberal individualism and state formation, our dreams of personal freedom, and the social suffering characteristic of the modern era.
Martin Myrone is an art historian and curator based in London, and is currently convenor of the British Art Network based at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.