• 6 October 2020
  • 12:00 – 2:00 pm
  • An event as part of the multi-part conference programme 'British Art and Natural Forces'
  • Zoom Webinar

Format: 20 mins papers x 4, plus Q&A

Chair: Martin Myrone (Convenor, British Art Network)

Speakers and papers:

Caterina Franciosi (PhD Student, History of Art at Yale University), ‘“Hell on Earth”: Edward Burne-Jones’s Perseus Series (1876–1885) and Narratives of Geophysical Development’

Stephanie O’Rourke (Lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews), ‘Picturing the Geological Sublime’

Joe Kerr (Adjunct Professor of Architectural History at Syracuse University, London), ‘Alfred Watkins: Art, Nature and the Supernatural’

Tobah Aukland-Peck (PhD Student, Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York), ‘“Minerals of the Island”: Tracing the Fossil Landscapes of the 1951 Festival of Britain’

British Art and Natural Forces:
A State of the Field Research Programme

In the year 2020, the Paul Mellon Centre marks its 50th anniversary as an institution dedicated to the study of British art and architecture. It is a year in which artistic practice and the practice of art history have met with the unprecedented force of a global pandemic.

This multi-part programme of research events focuses on the encounter between artistic and art-historical practice and the forces of the natural world. It places such encounters in both contemporary and historical perspectives.

In doing so, it aims not only to respond to the exigencies of the current moment, but to foreground some of the most vital activities and conversations taking place within the field of British art studies. In recent years, scholars have concentrated with new intensity on the overlaps between artistic, geophysical, biological and ecological bodies of knowledge.

The series speaks to many of the new interdisciplinary collaborations that are currently shaping art-historical practice, where scholars of the visual arts are working across different subject-fields to explore natural histories, indigenous forms of knowledge, animal studies, concepts of the post-human and revitalised theorisations of the sublime.

It foregrounds the astonishingly rich and diverse representations of natural forces found throughout the history of British art. The programme will explore such representations in the light of current debates and theoretical frameworks, and with the acknowledgement that human agency and reflexive awareness are natural forces in their own right.

Schedule and format

A series of panels and keynote lectures will address the ways in which artistic and art-historical thinking and practice – in the contexts of British art and visual culture – have shaped or been shaped by the encounter with natural forces, whether benign or cataclysmic, short- or long-term, visible or invisible.

The events in this programme will be hosted throughout the 2020 autumn term. Sequential in character, they are designed to forge and facilitate a set of expansive conversations that unfold over time.

Speaker Biographies

Caterina Franciosi

Caterina Franciosi is an incoming PhD student in the Department of History of Art at Yale University, where she will study nineteenth-century British art, with a focus on the visual culture of landscape and the environment and its intersection with the history of science. She received her MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2019, where her dissertation ‘“Hell on Earth”: Edward Burne-Jones and the Histories of the Earth’ was awarded the Courtauld Prize for an Outstanding Dissertation. She holds a BA in Art History from John Cabot University, Rome.

Stephanie O’Rourke

Dr Stephanie O’Rourke is a lecturer in art history at the University of St Andrews. This paper is part of a Leverhulme-funded research project on the relationship between landscape painting and natural history in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe. Her recent publications on this topic can be found in Representations, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Word & Image. She holds a PhD from Columbia University and a BA from Harvard University.

Joe Kerr

Joe Kerr is an Adjunct Professor of Architectural History at Syracuse University, London. He was previously the Head of the Critical & Historical Studies Programme, Royal College of Art. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book Alfred Watkins: Man of Vision (Strange Attractor Press, 2021) and curator of the exhibition of the same name at the Hereford Museum & Art Gallery (June 2021). Amongst his publications are: The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture and Space(MIT Press, 2000); Autopia: Cars & Culture (Reaktion, 2002); London From Punk to Blair Revised 2nd Edition (Reaktion, 2012); and Bus Fare: Collected Writings on London’s Most Loved Means of Transport (AA Publishing, 2018)

Tobah Aukland-Peck

Tobah Aukland-Peck is a fifth year PhD student in art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her dissertation research focuses on images of extraction (mines, miners, and mining infrastructure) in interwar Britain. She locates the figure of the miner as an alter-ego for the artist, tracing the way in which both instances of labor are engaged with the translation of landscape and raw material into productive commodities. Her essay ‘“The Abbey in Ruins and Ablaze”: Staging Disaster at the British Empire Exhibitions’ will be published in Imagining the Apocalypse, forthcoming from Courtauld Books Online.

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Before the webinar

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Image credit: Graham Sutherland, Miner Probing a Drill Hole, 1942, gouache, wax crayon and ink on paper, 56 x 51.2 cm. Tate (N05741). Digital image courtesy of Tate