Past Events

Millais, un Peintre Hors du Temps: Writing about Victorian Art in France

Research Lunch – Sarah Gould

  • 23 February 2024
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

In her presentation, Sarah Gould will introduce her upcoming book: a monograph on John Everett Millais, soon to be published by the French publishing house Cohen and Cohen. The book delves into the multifaceted career of Millais, tracing the journey from his youthful rebellious phase to his leadership as the President of the Royal Academy. In addition to building upon the existing English-language literature, the publication offers fresh perspectives on Millais’s body of work. Particularly the book analyses discourses on the materiality of Millais’s paintings. By historicising his relationship to the materiality of paint and of the world, it places the question of texture in an epistemological context – which links artistic creation and empiricism – and in an eccentric relationship to modernity. Notably, the book veers away from the traditional path of monographic sacralisation by casting light upon the artwork as an object and scrutinising the various stages of its journey – from its inception and production to its sale, circulation, exhibition and reproduction. Furthermore, it ventures into Millais’s observations and interpretations of pivotal socio-political and cultural events of his era, including the Crimean War, the sweeping tides of industrialisation and the global reach of colonial expansion. Indeed, an additional distinctive facet of the book is its attention to the environmental significance of Millais’s art. His depictions of British landscapes, as well as his narrative portraits, capture the irreversible alterations wrought upon nature by human activities in the throes of the Industrial Revolution. In addition to outlining these novel research avenues, Sarah Gould’s presentation will also touch upon the reception of Victorian art in France. This comprehensive overview will provide insights into the objectives and challenges that shape her forthcoming publication.

Image caption: John Everett Millais, Portrait of Mrs Charles Wertheimer, 1891, oil on canvas, 127 x 87 cm. Private Collection. Image courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo

About the speaker

  • GOULD, Sarah, Headshot (1)

    Sarah Gould is an Assistant Professor at Université Paris 1- Panthéon Sorbonne, where she focuses on the study of British art in both her research and teaching. Her academic interests lie primarily in the material and ecological meanings of art. She has authored several articles, with a notable focus on the works of J.M.W. Turner and the representation of atmospheric pollution in 19th-century British landscape painting. She will also soon publish an edited volume on John Berger. Currently, she is working on a new project whereby she looks at the paintings of the scientist Mary Somerville. She has benefited from scholarships from the Huntington Library, the Bodleian Library and the Paul Mellon Center. In 2022 she co-organized an international summer school in Paris entitled “Techniques Picturales (1400-1900)” which explored the history of painting through the lens of technology. She remains open to international collaborations that could enrich her students’ experiences at Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne.