David Pullins is an historian of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century art and visual culture with a specific focus on France, the relationship between painting and ornament, studio practices and mechanical process as a means of developing new methods for studying early modern objects. He received his BA from Columbia University, MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art and PhD from Harvard University in 2016. His work has been supported by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Dumbarton Oaks and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, among other institutions. He has published his work in Oxford Art Journal, Master Drawings, Print Quarterly, The Burlington Magazine and in several exhibition catalogs and edited volumes.
His current book project, “Cut & Paste: the Mobile Image from Watteau to Robert,” takes a mode of production—cutting-and-pasting in its most literal and more abstract forms—as a tool for thinking anew about eighteenth-century French art and visual culture in two key ways. The first is to orient art historians’ focus away from spaces of reception (prioritized in the field since the logocentric discourse established by academicians and critics in the seventeenth century) towards spaces of production (typically obfuscated by the same discourse). This is to undress painting of many of the ideologically-driven, highly wrought terms that elevated it from a mechanical to a liberal art in France between roughly 1690 and 1790. But cutting-and-pasting also provides a means of slicing across media to addresses current art historical concerns about “transmediality” (for which eighteenth-century France and its “integrative interiors” have been seen as particularly relevant) that remains historically responsible about the medium-specificity so central to the guild-based culture that produced these objects. The ghost of the decorative in works that would become known as “rococo painting” is addressed by this project’s broader conclusions in order to posit new insight into how divisions that were being actively constructed in the eighteenth century between fine and decorative, liberal and mechanical—and, indeed, works on canvas versus all other media—do not necessarily serve historians well in their understanding of eighteenth-century French painting. Threads of “Cut & Paste” have appeared recently in Journal18 and Histories of Ornament. From Global to Local, edited by Gülru Necipoğlu and Alina Payne (Princeton University Press: 2016).