Providing Historical Context to Art Gallery Publications and Visitors

Submitting Institution

Anglia Ruskin University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

Download original


Summary of the impact

Clarissa Campbell Orr has contributed to broader cultural enrichment through her participation in three exhibitions and their associated events. The exhibitions and venues are:

  • on Mary Delany at the Yale Centre for British Art (YCBA), New Haven, USA and the John Soane Museum, London;
  • on Johan Zoffany at the YCBA and the Royal Academy;
  • on Thomas Lawrence at the London, National Portrait Gallery (NPG).

These are significant venues with an international clientele, the exhibitions last on average for 12 weeks, and are reviewed both in the art historical press and mainstream newspapers and magazines in the UK and USA.

Underpinning research

Research underpinning the provision of historical context to art gallery publications and visitors has stemmed from three linked themes pursued by Campbell Orr: the nature of 18th century Queenship, the role of the British `Bluestockings', and the role of royal and aristocratic patrons of art, culture and women's education. Campbell Orr is best known for extending the idea of Queenship to the period 1660-1815, previously explored largely in relation to medieval and early modern history. Her two edited collections, Queenship in Britain 1660-1837 (2002) and Queenship in Europe 1660-1815 (2004) were landmark publications [1] and [2]. Her research on Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, raised the profile of this neglected historical figure. The Royal Collection exhibition for 2004 was entitled George III AND Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Taste. (ed. Jane Roberts, London: Royal Collection; emphasis added). In his lecture at the accompanying symposium the Keeper of the Queen's Pictures, Christopher Lloyd, stressed that Campbell Orr's publications on Queen Charlotte had encouraged more attention to her individual role as a patron than had previously been the case. She subsequently spoke on Queen Charlotte at the European University Institute conference in Florence on Moving Elites: Women and Cultural Transfers in the European Court System, in 2009 [3].

In parallel with research on court culture has been research on aristocratic education and genealogies of feminism in the Enlightenment. Three conferences were held by the international research network `Feminism and Enlightenment 1650-1850: A Comparative History', led by Barbara Taylor and Sarah Knott from 1998-2001, and there was a related conference in 2001 on `Genealogies of Feminism' at the Clark Library, Los Angeles. A revised version of Campbell Orr's conference paper appeared in the network's publication, Women, Gender and Enlightenment, (Palgrave, 2004).The essay looks at contributions to feminist thought by previously neglected elite women, showing that 18th century feminism operated among high as well as middling social ranks. It has a particular emphasis on the educator Mme LePrince de Beaumont, who taught elite women in England and believed women should think for themselves [4].

More recently Campbell Orr has contributed to a revised chronology and conceptualisation of the Bluestocking Circle and its links with the royal court and aristocratic women. She spoke at the conference accompanying the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Brilliant Women: 18th century Bluestockings, 2008, and contributed to the subsequent collection of essays stemming from the conference, Bluestockings Displayed (2013), offering a discussion of Bluestocking masculinity in the early years of George III's reign [6]. She has contributed to the research network, The Elizabeth Montagu and the Bluestocking Circle Project, based at Swansea University (, speaking at the opening conference (Swansea, June 2011) and the second of its three conferences (April 2012, at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California). The first conference paper, `Friends at Court: the Court Dimension to Mrs. Montagu's circle' offered a critique of Bluestocking historiography and its tendency to underplay the role of the court, and showed how several Bluestocking women, including Montagu, are better understood when this dimension is factored in. The second conference paper, `The Sappho of Gloucestershire: Sarah Chapone and Christian Feminism' gave a fuller account than previously available of Sarah Chapone's pioneering 1735 essay on married women's legal disadvantages, looking at its theological framework and tracing how a provincial clergyman's wife could gain traction in metropolitan circles in Dublin and London.

A further strand of her work has entailed research on aristocratic culture undertaken 2008-10 on the 2nd earl and countess of Shelburne [5], which was indispensable to subsequent work on Mary Delany, 1700-1788, the courtier and botanical artist. The 2nd countess of Shelburne was educated by Mme LePrince de Beaumont; she was Mary Delany's cousin, and a neighbour of Mrs. Montagu; and she shared the Bluestockings' concern with education. Campbell Orr is now writing the first scholarly biography of Mary Delany for Yale University Press.

The European context of her research is connected with conferences and publications on the Hanoverian Union with Great Britain, sponsored by the German Historical Institute, London, and the Prince Albert Foundation, Coburg.

Campbell Orr has been at Anglia Ruskin University since January 1980, as a Lecturer and Principal Lecturer, and from 2008 as Reader in Enlightenment, Gender and Court Studies.

References to the research

1. Clarissa Campbell Orr ed. Queenship in Britain 1660-1837: Royal Patronage, Dynastic Politics and Court Culture (as editor and contributor), Manchester University Press, 2002
Available from HEI on request


2. Queenship in Europe 1650-1789: The Role of the Consort (as editor and contributor), Cambridge University Press, 2004
Available from HEI on request


3. Clarissa Campbell Orr, `Making a new start: Queen Charlotte, Popular Politics, and the fear of "Petticoat Power" in Britain c. 1760-1770', European University Institute, EUI Working Papers, HEC 2010/2, Moving Elites: Women and Cultural Transfers in the European Court System, eds. Giulia Calvi and Isabelle Chabot
Available at
Available in REF 2, CCO 4

4. Clarissa Campbell Orr `Aristocratic Feminism, the Learned Governess, and the Republic of Letters', and Part 6 Introduction, in Sarah Knott and Barbara Taylor, eds., Women Gender and Enlightenment, Palgrave, 2005
Available from HEI on request

5. An Enlightenment Statesman in Whig Britain: Lord Shelburne (1737-1805) in Context, edited by Nigel Aston and Clarissa Campbell Orr, Boydell Press, 2011
Available in REF 2, CCO 2


6. Clarissa Campbell Orr `The Queen of the Blues, the Bluestocking Queen, and Bluestocking masculinity' in Elizabeth Eger, ed., Bluestockings Displayed: Portraiture, Performance and Patronage, 1730-1830 Cambridge University Press, 2013
Available in REF 2, CCO 3


Details of the impact

Campbell Orr's scholarly reputation in the overlapping fields of Gender, Enlightenment and Court Studies in the English, Irish and Continental European contexts has led since 2008 to invitations from Yale Centre for British Art (YCBA), and Yale University Press, to contribute essays or lectures for a variety of exhibitions they have organised. The first was an essay on `Mrs. Delany and the Court' for the book, Mrs Delany and her Contemporaries, edited by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts (Yale Centre for British Art/Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 40-63) This book accompanied the exhibition shown in Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven USA and the John Soane Museum, London, 2009-10. Unlike academic publications, print runs of exhibition catalogues are normally numbered in the thousands rather than the hundreds. 6250 copies were sold for the Mary Delany exhibition, which necessitated a second printing [1]. The attendance figures at YCBA, New Haven were 24,777 [2].

The Yale Centre for British Art also commissioned Campbell Orr to contribute an essay `Six Courts and Four Empires: Johann Zoffany as Courtier', as well as catalogue entries, to the book edited by Martin Postle, Johan Zoffany, Society Observed. This accompanied the eponymous exhibition shown in the Yale Centre for British Art, USA and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2011-2012. The exhibition was the first to be held in the UK on this painter since 1975, and the first ever held in the USA, and there were positive reviews of the exhibition in the mainstream quality and specialised art history press, which helped encourage the number of visitors [3]. The exhibition book had a print run of 9000 copies, 5000 of which were paperback copies for the Royal Academy, London venue. Brian Sewell, writing in The Evening Standard, said the book was `...the be-all and end-all of a book...weaving his life into his art and both into the several societies in which he moved.' [4] Mary Beard said in the TLS that the book `opened my eyes to the complexities of an artist that I had rather taken for granted' [5] The book was also among the six short-listed for the William T Berger Foundation annual prize for a book on British Art in July 2012.

For the Zoffany exhibition at the Royal Academy, visitor numbers were: 57,177, comprising: 16,558 paying visitors, 37,480 Friends and 3, 139 corporate or complimentary admittance visitors [6].

Lectures and talks have also reached the wider public. Campbell Orr gave two talks at the National Portrait Gallery in November 2010 and January 2011 on a YCBA exhibition on Sir Thomas Lawrence, Thomas Lawrence: Regency power and brilliance, which opened in London before travelling to YCBA. Both lectures sold their capacity of 30 tickets. In October 2012 she spoke at Kew Palace on `Queen Charlotte and the Bluestockings' for Historic Royal Palaces Adult Learners' programme. The venue of 60 seats was filled.

Finally, Campbell Orr gave a talk to the conference accompanying the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Brilliant Women: 18th century Bluestockings 2009. The conference was open to the general public as well as to specialist academics, with an auditorium seating 100 which was sold out. This talk was subsequently developed into the chapter `The Queen of the Blues, the Bluestocking Queen, and Bluestocking masculinity' in the book directed to an academic audience: Elizabeth Eger, ed., Bluestockings Displayed: Portraiture, Performance and Patronage, 1730-1830 pp 233-253 Cambridge University Press, 2013 (see REF 2, CCO 3).

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Email from Art Editor at Yale University Press, London office, to Clarissa Campbell Orr, 8 February 2011
  2. Email from Senior Associate of Communications and Marketing, YCBA to Clarissa Campbell Orr, 2 November 2013
  3. Examples of positive reviews for the Zoffany exhibition include:
    Amanda Vickery, `Portrait Painter of High Society' The Guardian, 2 March 2012;; and
    Philip Hensher,, The Daily Telegraph, 6 March 2012.
  4. Brian Sewell, Evening Standard, 8 March 2012.
  5. Mary Beard, Times Literary Supplement, 30 November 2012.
  6. Email from Royal Academy Archivist to Clarissa Campbell Orr, 11 October 2013