• 14 November to 10 December 2016
  • Deadline 12:00 am
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

On the occasion of the Vanessa Bell exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, this conference seeks to explore broader methodological and critical questions about the process of recuperating the work of women artists.

Over recent decades a number of important exhibitions and texts have re-evaluated the work of women artists. Yet, despite these positive efforts, the reception of women’s work remains skewed by numerous factors. These include problems of accessibility, still-dominant art historical narratives, a lack of representation in public collections, and an inherent ageism. Where the reputations of overlooked women artists have been reasserted, recovery often follows an ineffectual paradigm that at best achieves momentary exposure for certain individuals. For these artists and their legacies there remains no real elevation to a permanent position within the canon nor much in the way of meaningful contextualisation in the history of art. Though, in the words of Pamela Gerrish Nunn, ‘the historic female artist is always being re-asserted’, she is typically left ‘on the eternal doorstep of fame’.

This conference, led by Nadia Hebson and Hana Leaper, will bring together scholars and artists to debate the best ways in which to pursue more lasting forms of art-historical recuperation for women artists and their work.

Possible themes might include, but are not limited to:

  • The most desirable models for critically engaging with artistic canons.
  • The problematics of a canon – the possibilities of reading women artists’s work beyond established art historical movements.
  • The possibilities of subjective or empathetic models of enquiry.
  • The analysis of art historical narrative arcs, particularly those that deal with the aging female artist.
  • Women artists and the House Museum.
  • The adoption of Feminist strategies to re think and re-configure the work of women artists – towards new models of comprehension and alternative canons.
  • The approach of contemporary artists to less considered artistic legacies – a paradigm for new forms of engagement?
  • Building lasting art-historical legacies.

We will use the Dulwich Picture Gallery Vanessa Bell exhibition (February-June 2017) as a case study to galvanise discussion. The event will include sessions at Dulwich and we will conclude by evaluating the work of the show and discussing future curatorial models. There will also be several opportunities for round table symposia throughout the event, and critical scholarly conversation will be an integral element of the conference.

Provisional timetable, may be subject to change:

Thursday 9th February: afternoon session at Dulwich Picture Gallery

15.00-19.00: registration; Keynote by Hana Leaper; Group discussion about the conference themes and aims led by Nadia Hebson; Curators’ tour of the exhibition with Sarah Milroy.

Friday 10th February 2016: full day research event at the Paul Mellon Centre

9.30-17.30: Up to four panels and a round table discussion. Lunch, plus tea and coffee provided by the PMC.

How to submit:

We invite abstracts of 100-200 words for 10-minute papers.
Please submit abstracts to events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk by 10th December.
Some funding for travel and accommodation will be made available to speakers.


Banner image credit: Vanessa Bell, A Conversation, 1913-1916, Oil on canvas. © The Samuel Courtauld Trust\1961 Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett