In the late 19th century, a painting titled The Roll Call, by a virtually unknown artist, took England by storm. But after that brilliant first effort, the artist all but disappeared. Why? And what does The Roll Call tell us about the fate of those first through the door?

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00:00:05Hey revisionist history listeners I want to tell you about the newest podcast from Pushkin industries broken record to collaboration among music producer Rick Rubin and my friend the long time New York times editor Bruce had learned and me conversations are given stories remembering all music discovering new music
00:00:25broken record liner notes for the digital world subscribe now an apple podcast or wherever podcasts are available St James palace in London down the street from Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British monarchy built in the fifteen thirties by Henry the eight is not open to
00:00:47the public which you can apply to go inside which I did not long ago it's not that hard is a soldier with a machine gun standing by a little cottage he tells me to go inside and then a man named Desmond Shaw Taylor comes and gets me he's
00:01:02the curator of the royal art collection early middle aged distinguish a kind of high end exuberance there is a link that building those coming missing a it has a nice jumble yeah I came here to see a painting but by Queen Victoria nearly a hundred and fifty years
00:01:20ago it's called the roll call inside the palace is red everywhere royal red red carpets bed wallpaper all the choosing goals dreams are massive and almost entirely empty except for the art on the walls enormous canvases spanning many centuries everywhere and in a kind of Holloway not far
00:01:47from the entrance there it is roll call eighteen seventy four the F. C. point of the road is that it has a single brilliant image idea the painting depicts a group of British soldiers in the Crimean War which is a war England and France fought against Russia in
00:02:06the eighteen fifties in roll call there's just been a battle and the soldiers are lining up in the gray light of morning to be reviewed by the commanding officer we start talking about a particular distinctive figure in the middle of the painting does one has a flashlight in
00:02:24his hand because it's quite gloomy in the palace course palaces are supposed to be gloomy he shines a light directly on the man's face as a brave young man who manages to stand upright and this sort of encounter is suggestive of comradeship doesn't have St James palace has
00:02:46dozens of or paintings and some generals on white Chargers panoramic battle scenes face the soldiers in glistening uniforms they're almost cartoons in roll call the mentor exhausted wounded defiant drag cold it's real and they all standing in a line but then all in a straight line on the
00:03:09northern on us yes states got one fantastic idea yeah some %HESITATION my name is not compatible you listing to the first episode of my podcast revisionist history every week for the next ten weeks I'm gonna take you back to examine something that I think has been overlooked or
00:03:38misunderstood one week I'm gonna talk about a car crash just outside of San Diego another week I'm gonna take you back to a secret Pentagon project in Saigon the tagline of the show sometimes the past deserves a second chance and that really goes to the heart of I
00:03:56think too often we make up our minds about something that has happened and then we move on without pausing to ask wait a minute is that actually what happened do we really understand it I'm starting with something very simple a painting the roll call all but forgotten now
00:04:23if you want to see it before you listen to the story you can pause and go to revisionist history dot com but in eighteen seventy four when this painting became famous something extraordinary happened that I think is worth revisiting because it's an issue that we deal with all
00:04:38the time today which is what it means to be the first the first outsider enter a closed world the art world in England at that time is controlled by something called the royal academy consists of forty artists and being elected to the royal academy is the highest honor
00:05:00any artist can get it's like winning an Oscar membership makes your reputation makes it possible to become very wealthy as an artist and every year the academy puts on an art exhibition thousands of paintings are submitted they choose a select few and display them up Burlington house on
00:05:18Piccadilly remember this is before movies and television and recorded music painting is it hundreds of thousands of people come to the shows and roll call gets chosen for the royal academy and not just chosen chosen in a way that makes it a really big deal first of all
00:05:37with the academy hangs a painting on the wall matters a lot if they hang it way up to the ceiling at the sky it that means you're painting is considered second class if they hang in at high level what's called on the line ten tastic roll call on
00:05:53the line the news where as a gallery in the back called the lecture the lecture room is known as the black hole being hung in the black hole was almost as bad as not being on at all but if they hang up painting in the front gallery too
00:06:12that's incredibly prestigious so where was roll call hung gallery to unbelievable on the line gallery to I was reading about it creates an extraordinary sensation yes completely in it in an unusual even for that time the day the show opens the crowds make a beeline for roll call
00:06:36the crowds was so great that you had to have basically we employ Wharton but they are pleased to say that they taught short yeah that move move on the only contemporary equivalent I can think of is people camping out in line for two days to buy beyond say
00:06:51tickets or the kind of frenzy the Beatles faced when they first came to America roll call is the hit of the royal academy show after that roll call goes in a tour of England in new castle man walk up and down the sidewalks with sandwich boards saying simply
00:07:08the roll call is coming in Liverpool twenty thousand people go to see it in those days prominent paintings were put on little playing cards and two hundred and fifty thousand cards are sold with an image of roll call a bidding war breaks out among potential buyers finally Queen
00:07:26Victoria one of the greatest art collectors of her day decides she absolutely has to have it which is how it comes to hang in St James palace does one shot Taylor must've seen roll call a thousand times but as he shines his flashlight over the artist's brush work
00:07:44it's like he's seeing it for the first time he's excited about every little detail even down to the soldier shoes and that's pretty fabulous is %HESITATION so difficult to and to paint nothing in particular happening without over doing it maybe just get one great color and then on
00:08:05pensions and just pick up from the city's just press at a minimum during looking this it's a remarkable story but I've left out the most remarkable fact of all the artist an unknown more importantly a woman at a time when the art world was overwhelmingly male British women
00:08:30in the nineteenth century weren't even allowed to study fine art it was a closed world and suddenly in the middle of that closed world there enters a striking young woman named Elizabeth Thompson raised in Switzerland by wealthy bohemian parents an outsider and she breaks down the door I've
00:08:52been fascinated by the story of Elizabeth Thompson for years I roll call and more particularly by what happened to Elizabeth Thompson after the stunning success of what fascinates me is how her story is repeated over and over again once you know about Elizabeth Thompson you see Elizabeth Thompson's
00:09:13everywhere if you've ever heard of Julia Gillard she was the first woman to become prime minister of Australia she served from twenty ten to twenty thirteen and she had an incredibly to mulch was time in office near the end of her tenure she gave a famous speech in
00:09:34the floor the Australian parliament everyone noticed the leader of the opposition say is that people who hold six gin is appropriate for high office will I hiked the leader of the opposition is going to and he's riding out his resignation log in he doesn't need a motion in
00:10:00the house of representatives that when I hear Julia Gillard give that speech I thought about Elizabeth Thompson because Gillard and Thompson were in the same situation women dealing with the consequences of breaking down the door I also remember Elizabeth Thompson when I think of Hillary Clinton this is
00:10:25an idea that I think helps explain the phenomenon of Elizabeth Thompson and Julia Gillard it's called morals licensing it's a fairly new concept in social psychology was developed by a number of the best young psychologist in the field chief among them Daniel Afrin teaches at the London business
00:10:42school here's the official definition of moral licensing past good deeds can liberate individuals to engage in behaviors that are immoral unethical or otherwise problematic behaviors that they would otherwise avoid for fear of feeling or appearing in more when we do something good in other words sometimes we then
00:11:07on occasion give ourselves permission to do something bad one of their friends first experiments in moral licensing was in two thousand and nine he surveys people who publicly self identify as supporters of Barack Obama for president what he finds is it supporting a black politician doesn't always signal
00:11:28that you are racially open person who's inclined to be progressive in other areas you can also have the opposite effect you can free you up to go back to your old racist ways because you've proven to the world what a good person you are and that's when he
00:11:43discovers a significant chunk of the people who supported Barack Obama within more likely at least an experiment to express racially questionable opinions I was taken by this finding that people appear to be able to license themselves based on pretty paltry virtues I met Afrin in his office in
00:12:06London up near regent's park I asked him why a little egalitarian behavior doesn't lead to more egalitarian behavior why don't good deeds just lead to more good deeds so your question is about when does evidence that I'm virtuous lead to more virtuous behavior first is when this evidence
00:12:27of virtue lead to less virtuous behavior when is doing good leads doing bad and one is doing good lead to doing more good this is the million dollar question in this literature and it's it's been a puzzle all we know is that human beings go both ways after
00:12:43a good deed they sometimes follow virtuous trajectory and sometimes they don't there's what happens after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in nineteen forty seven becomes the first ever black professional baseball player within five years there are a hundred and fifty black ball players in the major leagues
00:13:02I think that's what we expect if it's a romantic notions of progress the door opens for one person and soon it opens for everyone but what we have to understand is that a lot of times the opposite happens the door opens for one person and they're the only
00:13:18one to slip in those to open the door then feel free to close it again for everybody else a couple years ago the Israeli author almost Ilan road history of the Jews in Germany called the pity of it all it's a fascinating book for precisely this reason because
00:13:35what a lawn is interested in is the great paradox of Germany's history with the Jews here we have a country that committed the greatest historical atrocity against the Jewish people get if you take the long view as a lawn does you see that time and time again German
00:13:51culture welcome Jews or at least welcomed some Jews from the seventeenth century onwards many German states had a tradition of what were called Jews most Jews were banned from living in major German cities there were severe restrictions on what they could do but simultaneously there was a group
00:14:10of protected Jews who were allowed to live and work within the city walls in the seventeen thirties the king of Prussia becomes alarmed by the number of Jews in Prussia likening them to locus bringing ruin to Christian so he banishes them from Berlin but not all of them
00:14:28kicks out a hundred and forty families and he keeps a hundred twenty dot pattern is repeated over and again in the German speaking world in the eighteenth century the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn who is Jewish was considered one of the most brilliant man in your he lives in Berlin
00:14:47and people come from far and wide to visit him how does he stay in Berlin the king grants in exceptional status that is to say and these are common salons words here Mendelssohn is the on Jewish you the same happens a hundred years later with bird told our
00:15:04Bach he's Jewish and he's the most widely read German novelist of his day he's called the German tickets this is now at a time of very ill and anti semitism throughout Germany but Burke told our Bach is somehow immune from that prejudice Richard Wagner Wagner the Taurus anti
00:15:23semite loves our Bach and calls him a man rooted in German life one of the brothers Grimm thanks our box for curing him of prejudice the Germans hate Jews as a rule but they love our book what's going on here it sounds like a contradiction snow this is
00:15:41textbook more licensing the Germans love bird told our block in because they think they have demonstrated their open mindedness by loving this one June they feel free to act in the most despicable way other choose you open the door to one outsider and that gives you permission to
00:16:00close the door others after seeing roll call at Saint James palace I went to the tape and sat on a little bench outside the Turner gallery with Paul assured I sure would is an art historian who has written extensively on the surface Thompson in fact I first learned
00:16:25about his baton to because I stumble across an absolutely brilliant article by usher would in the woman's our channel was called Elizabeth Thompson Butler a case of tokenism question what is wispy in between the best possible English way I imagine that after our chat he'll go straight home
00:16:44spend an hour in the garden then go for a brisk walk across a few soggy feel to the dogs I should argues that in making sense of what happened to Elizabeth Thompson it's really important to understand the role of the royal academy they control the art world at
00:17:00this point forty aloof dictatorial white men as a this tissues to see a very very powerful and much resented by people who %HESITATION went very very well but academy members gave their own pictures the best positions on the walls of the anyone exhibition meanwhile they pretty much ignored
00:17:23everyone else's are including in eighteen seventy four the year when roll call went out to fight yeah there was six Hanson's paintings which didn't make the expression battles is anyone archer that matters in England and it's so small that thousands of artists are stuck on the outside looking
00:17:40in it's a revolution growing so along comes Elizabeth Thompson woman no cider is an absolutely brilliant painting and the academy hangs on the line and gallery too and everyone thinks this is a sign that the academy is finally opening its doors to what the holy grail membership in
00:18:07the royal academy itself it seems destined to happen one of the most prominent art critics of the day writes in The Daily Telegraph roll call success proves that and I'm quoting here real genius has no insurmountable obstacles in the English are in short order Thompson is nominated for
00:18:29election to the real economy is one of the most famous artists in England she's a huge public falling every artist in the country is riveted by her candidacy and what happens she loses but by just two votes it doesn't feel at the end everyone says this is progress
00:18:48we have a young artist still in her twenties and on her first try she comes within a hair's breadth of acceptance into the old boys club everyone thinks that she's going to be a lock for election the next time around they look at her and they say Elizabeth
00:19:03Thompson pioneer Dan Thompson submits another painting to the academy another brilliant painting called porch abroad depiction of the battle of Waterloo Senshi celebrity has touched six film assistance from the owners of the three hundred soldiers at one point operators sushi to paint a picture this is in eighteen
00:19:29seventy five the year after roll calls trying so what happens departure from what they do is they stuffed away in an obscure corner says put Hansi Thompson's new work is hung in the lecture room at the back the black hole and the black hole is where her election
00:19:48to the royal academy also goes amber she was within two votes of getting in and everybody said she's a lock for the next time around but she isn't there is no next time around instead the mail academy members have these absurd internal conversations about how would work alone
00:20:05ever got elected what the attic at the banquet home seven range how who would bring in something for the email kind of missions escort the woman into the fine print for how would that work for the woman he fussed about the tide themselves in knots at the thought
00:20:22of a woman entering a club so the academy members passed new regulations to limit the privileges of any women comeback elected in the future because they've proven their bona fides they hung roll call on the line and gallery to who can doubt how open and aggressive they are
00:20:39now they can go back to the way they were in eighteen eighty one Elizabeth Thompson paints what might be her most famous painting Scotland forever it's a thrilling depiction of a charge of the Scots greys at Waterloo in eighteen fifty Alan forever is never shown at the royal
00:20:59academy and Thompson doesn't even try again to get elected she can read the writing on the wall in fact no woman would be elected to the royal academy until nineteen thirty six more than half a century later as for Thompson she married an army officer named William Butler
00:21:19she changed her name she raised six children her career took a backseat to her husband's when he writes his memoirs he doesn't say a word about her his own life one of the most famous artists in England his autobiography forum fifty five pages she's not mention the index
00:21:38he mentions that he was married to mention city did have children in the system and when she writes her memoirs she acts as if the whole incident with her near elections the role academy never happened today people would write an entire book about it but she's been defeated
00:21:57and she knows it here's all she says as it turned out in eighteen seventy nine I lost my election by two votes only since then I think the door has been closed and wisely that's the part that always gets me and wisely she's given up remember how I
00:22:25mentioned that when I saw real calls the first thing I thought about was Julia Gillard former prime minister of Australia that's because it's the same story you know it's election was a milestone in Australian history the same way would be for any country Australia had been an independent
00:22:43nation for more than a century a hundred and ten years of uninterrupted mail rule and that came to an end in twenty ten with this funny with smart tough woman former British colonies like Australia the representative of the British crown is called the governor general and the governor
00:23:05general is the person who swears in the new prime minister when Gillard stands up to take the oath of office it's a doubly incredible moment what made it loom large for may that die ease and governor general at that time was the first woman to have a service
00:23:20governor general this is Julia Gillard telling the story and all I could see in her face and in her allies unite these incredible %HESITATION shock or delighted that she was going to be the person to sway or in the first woman prime minister I well hello and you
00:23:47know she subsequently say to me look on I didn't think I'd leave to say I didn't think I'd like to say that Diane nineteen had a female prime minister it's a big deal and Gillard like many at the time thinks that Australia has undergone a permanent transformation and
00:24:03she also thinks that after the novelty of her election passes should just be prime minister Gillard the fact of her gender will become on remarkable the way the fact of the baseball players race is now on remarkable if you'd asked me then that'll would have played itself out
00:24:20in the first few months and then I thought sort of the political socle it got back to normal and I made that judgment cold spectacularly wrong when was the first moment did you realize you were wrong all look I don't think it was a you know it wasn't
00:24:37at the thought of a penny dropping in my brine %HESITATION bot each asked behind clearer and clearer particularly %HESITATION by the time we were in the government second year and we were putting a price on carbon and the campaigning against that %HESITATION by the opposition and in the
00:24:58community was getting hotter and shrill a %HESITATION it was in the course of that the gene did stuff really started to shower things got ugly her opponents would circulate lewd sexual cartoons of her she would be referred to in the newspapers is Julia is if she was a
00:25:27reality TV star not the head of state the media would constantly referred to the outfit she wore or how much cleavage she showed with the tone of her voice the CEO of a major Australian company publicly called her an unproductive old cow one restaurant offered on his menu
00:25:46Julia Gillard Kentucky fried quail small breasts huge the eyes and a big red box was there any particular moment or thing said that that hurt you the most I mean it's obviously not a good thing to look at on the Saint of protesters and say is self described
00:26:05as a beach and a weak chin things like that but for many actually the worst monument in my prime minister sheep balls out not in an overt so for Jane did remark but kind from a shock jock she's talking about the Rush Limbaugh this trillion a major radio
00:26:22personality who hosts a fundraiser for the Conservative Party the other party naturally Gillard's and all I had recently lost my father my father died while I was prime minister and he is said to this audience that my father died of shine %HESITATION because he was ashamed of may
00:26:40use prime minister on and that that was the worst how wow yeah yeah that's appalling eighties a pool eighties a polling and %HESITATION you know it's you don't expect to have to do that in your life and you don't expect that you know I'm up someone not my
00:26:56mother who's just a lovely woman in a you know everybody like right Australian citizen should have to tolerate that being said about out the husband she's just lost what do you think that intelligent educated members of a progressive country feel they can get away with such vile behavior
00:27:15because they just elected a woman they've proven their progress a bona fides ending a hundred and ten years of patriarchy when the female governor general swears in the female prime minister Australia has a collective lump in his throat then what happens moral licensing happens and of course get
00:27:39a can't fight packaging until the very end of your tenure as prime minister you keep a pretty stiff upper lip about this yes I think Aidid tell me about that value decision of how to handle it I mean some of its %HESITATION the night some of it's just
00:27:56may and then on a old so it took a deliberate decision that you know if you looked a lot like you couldn't take it if you looked up state then that would be used against me personally but more importantly against women generally that they will defend papal mastering
00:28:18to themselves at the and I knew I knew women went up to the ceiling knew that couldn't take it when the going got tough then near the end of goes time in office a prominent member of her own party the man she's chosen to be speaker is found
00:28:35to have sensex's text messages and incredibly her critics come after her Gillard he accused her of condoning sexism because she's associated with this man she sits in her office in disbelief you know don't want to use any bad language %HESITATION to your %HESITATION bot I did have just
00:28:59going through my brain for heaven's sake and the would always thinking wasn't heavens %HESITATION but for heaven's sake high cannot believe that I after everything I've had to listen to it now on somehow get I'm going to walk into a column and and people who were views gender
00:29:21the insults against me and now somehow going to try and give me a lecture on sixty some like the in house to serve the is %HESITATION was just boiling in may so that day in parliament she stands up and gives her famous misogyny speech it's addressed to her
00:29:39harshest critic the leader of Australia's opposition a man named Tony Abbott hello just starts listing all the things abit has said and done to her and other women over the years she lets him have it all I was a very strange who's like when the leader of the
00:29:56opposition as minister for health said and I quote abortion is the easy why al all I was very %HESITATION slightly offended by those comments you said that in March two thousand and four I suggest you check the records this is live on the floor of parliament if you
00:30:13watch the video abit sitting right in front of her she's dressing him down to his face and the longer she goes on the more he sh rebels and shrinks all I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia when in the course of these happen
00:30:31crossing can time the leader of the opposition said when the housewives of Australian need to do what the housewives of Australian need to understand as they do the on it thank you for that hunting of women's roles the mold in Australia and then of I was being done
00:30:49to you by the state the most as the leader of the opposition Pat holding across these type he is all I see here is if the prime minister politically speaking I can almost woman of a cell something that neighbor of playing see any men seating when the leader
00:31:12of the opposition went out in the front of parliament and stood next to a sign that the weight when the labor of the on the main man beach all of those things Avery died from the flavor of the opposition he died in this was twenty twelve it was
00:31:39practically yesterday her last news conferences prime minister Gillard says what I am absolutely confident of is it it will be easier for the next woman and for the woman after that and the woman after that and I'm proud of that but forgive me for being a little less
00:31:56optimistic than she was the difference between Julia Gillard and Elizabeth Thompson is that Thompson never had the chance to give a speech like that on the floor of parliament he went away quietly give her got the chance to stand up and to be heard and I suppose that's
00:32:16progress but the underlying dynamics these two women faced by the all that different a woman gets accepted into a man's world she thinks that somehow something has changed nothing's changed the men Pat themselves on the back and then they slammed the door shut again Tony Abbott the man
00:32:36she eviscerated he later becomes prime minister of Australia by the way here's a partial list of the countries that had one and only one female leader open the door Pat themselves on the back close it again ready Brazil Germany Costa Rica Croatia Nicaragua Latvia Panama Bolivia Ecuador Pakistan
00:33:05Poland Turkey France Canada and of course Australia makes you wonder about Hillary Clinton doesn't she's not going to have a and we you've been listening to revisionist history if you like what you've heard do the favor and rate us on iTunes it helps you can get more information
00:33:34about this and other episodes that revisionist history dot com or on your favorite podcast app our show is produced by a meal of al rocks and Scott Jacobs our editor is Julia part music is composed by Louis Skara until okay as is our one Williams is our engineer
00:33:56checked checker Michelle's a rock and a panoply management team Lauren there Andy Bowers and Jacob Weisberg I'm glad

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