History of Art, University of Aberdeen
Tenure since 2016
Enlightenment Society Observed: The Edinburgh Portraits of John Kay 1784-1822
According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), John Kay (1742-1826), an Edinburgh barber turned self-taught artist, was ‘never an accomplished draughtsman or a master of the technicalities of etching’, with his work being ‘quaint’ and ‘solely of antiquarian value’. However, in his own self-portrait of 1786, rather than a ‘quaint’ amateur, Kay projects the image of a self-confident artist and classical scholar. Contemporaneous with the Scottish painter Henry Raeburn, Kay was active during a period in which Scottish identity within the British Union was evolving, yet while Raeburn records the upper strata of Edinburgh Enlightenment society, Kay adopts a more egalitarian approach. He provides a fascinating chronicle with much to reveal not only about the Enlightenment world of the North British Edinburgh New Town, but about Edinburgh society as a whole.
Wendy's Carnegie PhD Scholarship will enable her to undertake an in-depth study of Kay, which examines his place within a series of interconnected societies - Scottish, British and European - and which assesses the impact of this on Kay’s work. Her research will expand current scholarship through the close analysis of the work of an as yet little-studied Scottish artist and will examine the assertion that the work of Kay is ‘solely of antiquarian value’, reconsidering his significance to the broader histories of both Scottish and British art and culture.
Wendy Initially studied textile design and surface decoration at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Design and Craft in 1996. After working for many years as a textile designer for L.J. Woodhouse Ltd, she opted to transfer her design skills to a career in gardening, working firstly for the National Trust for Scotland, and later for the Beechgrove Garden, where she was appointed Head Gardener in 2010. However, personal injury brought her gardening career to an abrupt end and in 2012 she commenced her studies at the University of Aberdeen – "a fantastic decision, from which I have never looked back." In 2015, she was awarded the Donal Byrne Prize in the History of Art and recently graduated with an MA in the History of Art, for which she was awarded first class honours.