• 12 May to 30 June 2020
  • Formats: virtual, in-person, audio, and print modes

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. In the midst of this crisis, the PMC is initiating a major, multi-part programme of research events that focuses on the encounter between artistic or art historical practice and the forces of the natural world, and places such encounters in both contemporary and historical perspectives.

In doing so, we hope 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 theme also speaks to many of the new interdisciplinary collaborations that are currently shaping art-historical practice, which have seen scholars of the visual arts 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.

Finally, the theme of this series exploits the astonishingly rich and diverse representations of natural forces found throughout the history of British art, from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. The programme will seek to 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.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute research papers dealing with any period or category of British art and visual culture, and that address the ways in which artistic or art-historical thinking and practice have shaped or been shaped by the encounter with natural forces, whether benign or cataclysmic, short- or long-term, visible or invisible. We also welcome proposals from artists and others whose contributions might take unexpected forms.


The events in this programme will be hosted over October and November 2020. They will encompass virtual, in-person, audio and print modes: the formats will be confirmed in the early autumn, and will take shape in line with UK government advice on public gatherings. Spanning eight weeks, the events will be sequential in character, and are designed to forge and facilitate a set of expansive conversations that unfold over time.


Please send proposals of 400 words maximum together with a short biography of no more than 100 words to [email protected] Deadline: 30 June 2020.