Past Events

The City “Anchored in the Deep Ocean” Dickens, Turner and Venice

Lecture – Malcolm Andrews

  • 24 April 2024
  • 6:30 – 8:00 pm
  • The Turner Society: 44th Kurt Pantzer Memorial Lecture by Professor Malcolm Andrews
  • Paul Mellon Centre

This lecture argues for affinities between Dickens’ prose evocation of Venice and Turner’s oils and watercolours of the city. In 1844, writing from there to a friend, Dickens confided that “I never saw the thing before that I should be afraid to describe. But to tell what Venice is, I feel to be an impossibility”. The same letter also invoked the Venetian paintings of Canaletto, Stanfield and Turner. Accordingly, in composing his Pictures from Italy (1846) Dickens gave a separate chapter to Venice, titled “An Italian Dream”, which shows a radical stylistic rupture from the broadly conventional travel narrative in the rest of the book.

This lecture explores some of the ways in which Dickens’ writing, in trying to represent the “indescribable”, might be seen to resemble Turner’s melting of forms in his Venetian work.

Wine will be served after the lecture.

Image credit: Joseph Mallord William Turner, St Benedetto, Looking towards Fusina, exhibited 1843. Oil paint on canvas, 62.2 × 92.7 cm. Tate (N00534). Digital image courtesy of Tate (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED).

About the speaker

  • Malcolm Andrews is Emeritus Professor of Victorian and Visual Studies, University of Kent, and was for thirty years editor of The Dickensian. His publications in the field of landscape aesthetics and the visual arts include Landscape and Western Art (1999) and A Sweet View: The Making of an English Idyll (2021).