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High art and low politics: a new perspective on John Wilkes

Conlin, Jonathan (2001) High art and low politics: a new perspective on John Wilkes Huntington Library Quarterly, 36, (4), pp. 1-19. (doi:10.2307/3817917).

Record type: Article


In 1777, towards the end of his colourful career as a radical politician, John Wilkes (1725-1797) became the first politician to advocate the creation of a national gallery in Britain. More familiar for his opposition periodical The North Briton and the riotous Middlesex Campaign of 1768, Wilkes’s beliefs on the limits of royal authority with respect to parliament and the people were also expressed in his lifelong activities in support of the ‘polite arts’ in Britain. Building on his friendships with Denis Diderot and J.J. Winckelmann, as well as his links to London’s mercantile class, he challenged contemporaries who saw Britain’s commercial prowess as irreconcilable with such moral improvements. When juxtaposed to his attempts at parliamentary reform, his demonstration of liberty’s importance for the arts raised the prospect of greater public access to culture, as well as to the franchise.

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Published date: 2001
Organisations: History


Local EPrints ID: 146765
ISSN: 0018-7895
PURE UUID: 0c4be902-15dd-4cc2-8769-c920b3b4ff4d

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Date deposited: 13 Jul 2010 14:30
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 23:03

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