For centuries, the mannequin, or lay figure, was little more than a studio tool, a piece of equipment as necessary as easel, pigments and brushes.
Silent Partners will show the multiple purposes it served – from fixing perspective, understanding the fall of light and shadow and painting reflections to acting as a support for drapery and costume. From the 19th century, however, the mannequin moved centre stage to become the subject of the painting, and eventually, in creative partnership with the artist, a work of art in its own right. By examining the history and ubiquity of the mannequin from the Renaissance to the present day, the exhibition will review apparently contradictory notions of realism and artifice in representational painting, and also deepen our understanding of the work, and working methods of many of the most significant artists in the history of European art, including Nicolas Poussin, Thomas Gainsborough, Pre-Raphaelite painters such as John Everett Millais and Ford Madox Brown, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne as well as, 20th century painters, sculptors and photographers, filmmakers such as Georges Méliès, Giorgio De Chirico, Man Ray, Oskar Kokoschka, Hans Richter, Paul Delvaux and Hans Bellmer.
Exhibition generously supported by: Henry Moore Foundation, The Monument Trust, The Marlay Group, The Tavolozza Foundation and The Technology Partnership. Exhibition programme generously supported by ttpgroup.
The Museum is in Trumpington Street, Cambridge, within walking distance (approximately 500 metres) from the city centre.
The nearest railway station is Cambridge (approx. 20 mins walk), with taxis and frequent buses to the city centre. Cambridge railway station has frequent services from London (Kings Cross 50 minutes non-stop), Stansted Airport, Peterborough (connecting with the main East coast line) and the Midlands.
Park & Ride
Park & Ride facilities are at:
Babraham Road (off A1307 at Gog Magog roundabout)
Cowley Road (off A14 at A10 junction)
Trumpington (off M11, J11)
Madingley Road (off M11, J13)
Newmarket Road (off A14 on A1303, Stow-cum-Quy interchange)
All with frequent buses to the city centre. Further information from Cambridgeshire County Council.
The Museum Shop is located in the courtyard area and offers a wide range of books, cards, notecard packs, giftwrap and other merchandise inspired by the Fitzwilliam's collections, together with exciting and original gifts for adults and children. The shop opens during normal Museum opening hours, closing 15 minutes before the Museum.
A selection of merchandise from the shop is available for purchase online at the Fitzwilliam Museum Online Shop.
The mannequin: A cultural disorder?
Wed 14th January, 13:15 – 14:00
Gallery 12/Gallery 13
Dr Rod Mengham, University Reader of Modern English Literature and Curator of Works of Art, Jesus College, Cambridge.
Admission is by token, 1 per person, available at the Courtyard Entrance desk from 12.45 on the day of the talk.
Sat 17th January, 14:00 – 15:00
Discover how the master Automata makers represent life and nature using traditional clockwork and hand-operated mechanisms. An hour-long presentation lifting the lid on incredible secrets passed down through generations of craftsmen, which are largely undocumented. Many of these fascinating methods of replicating life exist only in the antique automata demonstrated this afternoon. Michael and Maria Start from The House of Automata will pull aside the covers and explain just how it is done using projections and real automata that are rarely seen playing and performing. At the end, there will be time for questions and the opportunity to closely inspect…
Screening of Pictures in Motion (‘Vivement le Cinema’) by Jérôme Prieur
Sun 18th January, 15:00
Emmanuel College, The Queen’s Building Theatre.
Author and film maker Jérôme Prieur has a distinguished reputation for his documentary films, many of which have been broadcast on the Franco-German network, ARTE. His film The Other Life (2014) was made specially to coincide with Silent Partners and in projected in the exhibition.
This screening offers rare opportunity to see his 2011 documentary exploring how pioneers of optical toys and photography influenced the production of film the evolution of modern-day cinema.
The projection will be followed by a Q&A with Jérôme Prieur, author and independent film maker, Paris, and Marta Braun, Professor in the History of Photography and Film, Ryerson University, Toronto and noted expert in the work of the 19th century photographers Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge.
The screening is in English and takes place in Emmanuel College, The Queen’s Building Theatre.
Booking essential. To register your interest please contact 01223 332904 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Places will be confirmed on receipt of payment.
£5. Free admission for students.
Screening of Hugo
Sun 18th January, 18:00
A special screening of Hugo, director Martin Scorcese’s touching tribute to the pioneer of early cinema, Georges Méliès, whose short film L’Artiste et le mannequin (1900) features in Silent Partners.
Preceded by a short animated film by Lizzy Hobbs featuring mannequins created by families who attended The Adventures of a Mannequin workshop at the Museum in connection with Silent Partners and by a talk by Michael Start of ‘The House of Automata’ in Kinloss, Scotland, automata and horological advisor on Hugo.
Tickets available one week before screening. To book contact Cambridge Arts Picturehouse on 0871 902 5720 or visit www.picturehouses.co.uk.
Podcasts, Films and Photos
Content to complement and accompany the exhibition Silent Partners.
Short behind the scenes films and photos from the exhibition and related events.
Stories about and responses to the exhibition and its related events.
Following the opening of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s major exhibition Silent Partners, mannequins will be invading Cambridge City Centre in a Mannequin Parade from Saturday 25 October – Sunday 9 November, timed to coincide with the beginning of October half term.
The mannequins are being placed in various locations and shops across the city, all dressed differently, with unique names and ages relating to historic artists, lay figures, paintings, and references to books and film.
Participating venues have posters in their windows, and maps are available to pick up from each location to spot all twelve of the Silent Partners mannequin displays; people who find them all and jot down their names can enter a competition to win a digital camera from John Lewis, Cambridge.
Two of the highlight displays in the parade include a life-size recreation of the painting The Black Brunswicker by Millais in John Lewis, and a mannequin and series of images related to the Silent Partners exhibition in the Arts Picturehouse. Remarkable displays from food to fashion will be taking place in Fitzbillies, Tindalls, Bowns, Cambridge Contemporary Art, ARK, the Tourist Information Centre Gift Shop, CallyCo, Cristine Patisserie and Noa Noa.
The final mannequin is located in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s gift shop, next to the competition form collection box.
The Museum will be sharing photos from the public with the mannequins they find which are tweeted to @FitzMuseum_UK with the hashtag #SILENTPARTNERS, along with their name.
Click on the map to download the competition entry form.
The Mannequin Parade is supported by Cambridge BID, also in partnership with ‘Our Cambridge Story’, encouraging shops to tell stories about their history and products in window displays as part of ‘Curating Cambridge: our city, our stories, our stuff’. Neon green posters are in participating ‘Our Cambridge Story’ shop fronts across the city, presented by the University of Cambridge Museums in partnership with the Cambridge BID and Independent Cambridge.
Audio-visual podcasts from the second year Fashion History and Theory students of Central St Martins. These podcasts are the students’ own response to the themes of the show.
Click on the images to the right to read the prose and poems inspired by Silent Partners which were produced during the Ideas of Perfection workshop.
Audio-visual podcasts from guest speakers exploring subjects from the exhibition.
On the 5th of December the Fitzwilliam Museum hosted an animation workshop called “The adventures of a mannequin”. Inspired by Silent Partners, families brought to life some dramatic moments from the story of Pinnochio, using cut out animation.
A film and slideshow from the workshop, made by the Cambridge Film Consortium, are now available to view online.
The Students of Central St Martins Measure up the Mannequin
“The mannequins’ bodies are our own… yet they are also the skilfully manipulated props of commerce,” says Sara McAlpine in one of the intriguing and engaging podcasts produced by the students of Central St Martins in response to Silent Partners. Prior to its opening, curator of the exhibition, Jane Munro paid a visit to the 2nd year Fashion History and Theory Class at Central St Martins in London. The students then produced a series of audio-visual responses to the themes of the exhibition.
The series compiles a collage of stories that remind us of the mannequins’ secret history, from post-war Paris shop window to artist’s studio. Hidden amongst debate and social change, the mannequin stands still and silent. From Eugène Atget’s photographs to Madeleine Vionnet’s couture house; these podcasts take us through the role the mannequin played in fashion history and in turn provoke us to think about the mannequin’s function within the fashion industry today.
In addition to this insightful series the Pathway Leader, Alistair O’Neill and Professor of Fashion History and Theory, Caroline Evans have recorded podcasts for the Fitzwilliam Museum’s series on Silent Partners, to be released during the exhibtion. Further writing about the series can also be found at http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/csm/2014/08/20/drunken-painter-decapitates-mannequin-lover-champagne-party/
The Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge would like to thank the students and staff of Central St Martin’s for their continuing support of Silent Partners and all the work and enthusiasm put into producing this series.
From the pages of Vogue, to shoots with top fashion houses, fashion set designer Shona Heath and photographer Tim Walker are both individually known for crafting fantastic worlds of the imagination on camera. The surprising and unusual story of the artist’s mannequin has been their inspiration for new creations and photography, which lead through the Fitzwilliam to Silent Partners.
The Museum has linked its permanent collections to the exhibition with an installation pathway which also features displays harking back to the history of the mannequin and artificial models in art.
The inspiration for the work by Shona Heath and Tim Walker started with one of the highlight paintings in Silent Partners, Reposing by Alan Beeton, featuring the artist’s mannequin seated in the studio.
Shona Heath commented: “When I saw the Alan Beeton paintings for the first time, they blew my mind. I couldn’t work out what the mannequin was, and why it was so alive. I had never heard of a lay figure, and was excited that another tool was used in painting that I didn’t know about. The pieces that are in Tim Walker’s photographs will be used as sign posts to follow through the Museum to the exhibition. Like a treasure hunt, the photographs hold items that are to be found along the way. The pictures are at once fantasy, beautiful, dark, sexual, touching on morbid, as are the installations.”
Tim Walker’s photographs include Alan Beeton’s original mannequin as well as live models, blurring the boundaries between reality and the artificial. He commented: “Looking at Beeton’s paintings, I thought that they were photographs and found them incredibly inspiring; there was a real incentive to explore the lay figures and the world that Beeton expressed as a photographic journey.”
In addition to the modern interventions the pathway includes a recreation of the ‘grande machine’ (great machine) used by Nicolas Poussin to ‘test’ his compositions. This has been specially commissioned from distinguished contemporary sculptor Andrew Lacey to replicate Poussin’s Extreme Unction (1638-40), recently acquired by the Fitzwilliam with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund. Poussin used several methods of staging his paintings including: ‘dressing’ wax figurines in damp paper or fine taffeta on a board using taut strings to mark the perspective; and placing figures in an enclosed box with holes cut on the side to illuminate the scene and a smaller peep-hole cut in the front to allow Poussin to observe it in perspective.
The pathway also includes a group of astonishingly realistic wax apples from the collection of the Whipple Museum of Science. The apples are posed by a still life by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) challenging us, as mannequins sometimes did, to separate nature from artifice.
Buy The Book
Complementing and expanding on the themes of the exhibition, the Silent Partners book is published by Yale University Press.
Over the course of the 19th century, the mannequin gradually emerged from the studio to become the artist’s subject, at first humorously, then in more complicated ways, playing on the unnerving psychological presence of a figure that was realistic, yet unreal—lifelike, yet lifeless.
Silent Partners locates the artist’s mannequin within the context of an expanding universe of effigies, avatars, dolls, and shop window dummies. Generously illustrated, this book features works by such artists as Poussin, Gainsborough, Degas, Courbet, Cézanne, Kokoschka, Dalí, Man Ray, and others; the astute, perceptive text examines their range of responses to the uncanny and highly suggestive potential of the mannequin.
Jane Munro is a curator in the Department of Paintings, Drawings and Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum and director of studies in history of art at Christ’s College at the University of Cambridge.
Available to purchase from the Fitzwilliam Museum Shop Oct 13, 2014
280 p., 8 1/2 x 11
220 color + 50 b/w illus.
Cloth: £40.00 sc
To order a copy of the book please email email@example.com
Telephone: 01223 332941
BBC News: The secret lives of mannequins
Tatler: Best books “This is the art book for art lovers.”
London Review of Books: At the Fitzwilliam
House & Garden: Silent Partners (December) “Exhibitions are especially illuminating when they consider the methods used by artists to achieve the end results … Now the Fitzwilliam Museum is focusing on the artist’s lay figure.”
World of Interiors: Silent Partners (December) “A brilliantly researched book and exhibition … Jane Munro has uncovered their intriguing history”
The Spectator: The secret world of the artist’s mannequin
Burlington: Artists’ mannequins (December) “The exhibition and associated book are … an integrated pleasure if, at times, a disconcerting one.”
Country Life: Mannequins and the Man (November) – Jeremy Musson is enthralled by a new exhibition exploring the history and significance of the artificial figures that were, for centuries, an essential tool for the working artist
Cambridge Magazine: Man and Mannequin (November) “Visually arresting … the Fitzwilliam’s latest major exhibition is a triumph”
University of Cambridge: Mannequins with x-ray vision “The fascinating results of CT scans performed by the radiology team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital on two mannequins from the 18th and 19th centuries reveal astounding science and conservation stories.”
Independent on Sunday: These figures are remarkable
Independent: A history of artists and their mannequins
Guardian on Saturday: From model to sex toy – artists and mannequins
Cambridge Edition: Silent Partners
Hyperallergic: Artists’ Mannequins Through the Centuries
Enfilade: Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin
The images to the right are available for publicity and press use for Silent Partners only. Please use the credits provided. For high resolution images email firstname.lastname@example.org