• 8 October 2020
  • 4:00 – 5:30 pm
  • An event as part of the multi-part conference programme 'British Art and Natural Forces'
  • Zoom Webinar

Format: 20 mins papers x 3, plus Q&A

Chair: Sria Chatterjee (IXDM, Basel/Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institut)

Speakers and papers:

Lauren Cannady (Assistant Clinical Professor, University Honors at theUniversity of Maryland), ‘The Order of Nature, the Disorder of Names’

Jeremy Melius (Assistant Professor, History of Art at Tufts University), ‘Vivisection and the Visual Arts’

Laura Ouillon (Doctoral Student, British Visual Culture at the Université de Paris), ‘Re-membering Trees after the Great Storm: Ecological Grief in Garry Fabian Miller’s Work’

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

Lauren Cannady

A historian of early modern art and architecture, Lauren R. Cannady is assistant clinical professor in the University Honors Program at the University of Maryland. She is completing a book on northern European gardens as sites of knowledge production and transmission, and is co-editor of Crafting Enlightenment: Artisanal Histories and Transnational Networks, forthcoming in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series.

Jeremy Melius

Jeremy Melius is an assistant professor of the history of art at Tufts University and a specialist in modern art and art writing. Melius’s writings have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Art History, October, Selva, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere, as well as in publications of the Getty Research Institute, the Reina Sofía, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, and the Museum of Modern Art. Melius is currently completing a book, The Invention of Botticelli, and at work on another concerning the fraught relation between Ruskin and art history.

Laura Ouillon

Laura Ouillon is a doctoral student in British visual culture at the Université de Paris, France. She is a former student at the École Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France. Her PhD focuses on the imaginary of trees and forests in contemporary British art from the eighties onwards. Her aim is to see how the contradictions of British contemporary identities and identifications have been – and are – negotiated and articulated in these canonical artistic motifs. She will pursue this research at the Oxford French Institute for Research (Maison Française d’Oxford) later this year.

Guidelines for users attending Zoom webinars

Before the webinar

  • Please download Zoom software in advance.
  • Please register to attend the Research Lunch webinar through Eventbrite.
  • We will share the link to the Zoom webinar with you in advance by email through Eventbrite.
  • If you require closed captioning during this event, please get in touch at least two weeks before the event date.

During the event

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  • Use the Q&A box to ask/write your questions after the talk.
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  • If you are experiencing any technical problems, please notify Ella Fleming (events manager) or Danielle Convey (events assistant) directly using the chat box function. Alternatively you can email them via [email protected].
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  • This session will be recorded for educational and research purposes. The recording may be made available on the Centre’s website and via YouTube. It will be stored indefinitely in the Centre’s Institutional Archive.
  • Any offensive behaviour will not be tolerated and attendees can be removed from the webinar by the host.


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Image credit: "Phalangium, Spider-wort," illustrated in John Parkinson, Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris (London, 1629), plate 151. Wellcome Collection. Digital image courtesy of Wellcome Collection