• 24 May to 30 June 2017
  • Paul Mellon Centre


Conference date: November 30th – December 1st 2017

The pictorial representation of the landscape has long played an important role in the history of British art. It has been central to writers from Gilpin and Ruskin onwards, and was the subject of sustained scholarly attention in the 1980s and 1990s with the emergence of a social history of art. Writers such as John Barrell, Anne Bermingham, Stephen Daniels, Christiana Payne, Michael Rosenthal and David Solkin not only helped transform interpretations of British landscape painting, but made the study of such imagery seem essential to a proper understanding of British art itself.

Over the past two decades the centre of gravity of British art studies has shifted. An imperial turn has characterized some of the most ambitious scholarship in the field; a raft of powerful new voices have shifted attention to the Victorian and modern periods, and to the imagery of urban life; and there has been a dramatic growth of interest in such topics as print culture, exhibition culture, and the material culture of the work of art. With these developments, existing approaches to the study of landscape pictures lost some of their urgency and relevance.

However, this same period has seen the growth of a broader interest in landscape images in adjacent disciplines, driven in part by political and environmental imperatives. A newly energised category of ‘nature writing’, associated with authors such as Robert Mcfarlane and Helen MacDonald, has gained widespread currency beyond the purely academic arena. Cultural geographers such as David Matless and film-makers such as Patrick Keillor have offered nuanced investigations of the British landscape in their work, asking us to think afresh about its relationship to national identity, memory and post-imperial decline. And while many scholars in the humanities, in an age of globalisation and deepening ecological concern, have felt compelled to think about landscape on a vastly expanded basis, others have been driven to offer a new and suggestive focus on the local.

The moment thus seems ripe for a major art-historical reassessment of the image of the British landscape, taking account these and other emergent concerns. This international conference, the third in an annual series organised collaboratively by the Paul Mellon Centre, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botcanical Gardens, is designed to offer an opportunity for such a reassessment.

We seek proposals for 20-minute papers that offer new perspectives on the visual representation of the British landscape of any period. We equally welcome papers that focus on canonical landscape artists and paintings, and those that deal with lesser-known figures and objects, as well as those that investigate the topic in relation to drawing, printmaking, photography, film and television. Themes that might be addressed include:

- Landscape imagery and national identity
- Local/global histories of British landscape art
- The production of landscape images – in the field and in the studio
- Alternative landscapes: urban, suburban, rural, wild, touristic, agricultural
- The landscape image in a wider visual culture
- The pictorial logic of the landscape image
- The landscape image in an age of erosion

How to submit

Please send proposals of 400 words maximum together with a short biography of no more than 100 words to [email protected] Deadline: 30 June 2017.