Past Events

Animal Prints: Lithography and Leather in Victorian Britain

Research Lunch – Rosalind Hayes

  • 17 May 2024
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

The consumption and representation of animals were deeply intertwined in nineteenth-century Britain as science, industrialisation and colonial produce changed the material relationship between humans and other creatures. Out of this emerged not only a chauvinistic support for meat consumption on the grounds of national healthfulness and imperial dominance, but also an artistic co-option of animal life to assert conservative social values. This talk will discuss Wild Cattle of Chillingham, an 1867 painting by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, in conjunction with a halftone print produced at the turn of the twentieth century by the British meat extract company, Bovril. Both examples feature a bovine breed which was described in overtly racialised tones that associated their white hides and fearsome temperament with their English habitat. Considering Bovril’s citation of Landseer’s composition, this talk explores how animal life and meat eating were understood in terms of nationhood and racial identity in late-imperial Britain. Moreover, analysis of nineteenth-century print manuals reveals the role of the meat trade’s by-products to the process, to which certain animal materials were integral. Addressing the creaturely traces in tools such as composition rollers (which are often made with hide glue), this talk explores the notion of “skin contact” within the history of mechanised, commercial print production. From both a cultural and a material perspective, therefore, animal histories allow us to reconsider British art in more expansive and tactile ways which reveal how fundamental the “species divide” was to British modernity and its visual manifestations.

Image credit: Edwin Henry Landseer, Wild Cattle of Chillingham, Northumberland, circa 1867. Laing Art Gallery, gift from H. M. Treasury, 1975 (TWCMS : B8133).

About the speaker

  • Rosalind Hayes is a lecturer in art history and visual culture at the University of Exeter, UK, specialising in nineteenth-century British art history. Her research interests span animal studies, meat eating, British imperial history and art’s animal materialities. She is currently working on a monograph provisionally titled “Animal Prints: Mechanical Reproduction and the Nonhuman in Victorian Britain”, which is based on her doctoral research. A book chapter titled “Photography Needs Animals: Materials, Processes and Colonial Supply Chains of Gelatine Dry Plates” is forthcoming in Animal Modernities, ed. Katie Hornstein and Daniel Harkett. She holds a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (2023–24), where she is also co-convenor of the Early Career Researchers Network (2023–24).