Past Events

War & Peace: Rethinking Aesthetics in the Age of Empire

Lecture, Research Seminar – Cora Gilroy-Ware, Sean Willcock, Sria Chatterjee

  • 16 March 2022
  • 6:30 – 8:00 pm
  • The fourth in a series of talks in Spring 2022 by authors of books recently published by the Paul Mellon Centre.
  • Paul Mellon Centre and Online, Paul Mellon Centre

Join us for a series of talks in Spring 2022 by authors of books recently published by the Paul Mellon Centre. Each author will give a glimpse into their project, sharing insights about the process of researching, writing, and publishing their book. There will be two talks of around 20 minutes each, followed by a discussion and Q&A session.

In the fourth of these events, Cora Gilroy-Ware will speak about her research rethinking the sculpted body The Classical Body in Romantic Britain and Sean Willcock will discuss Victorian Visions of War & Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty, and Violence in the British Empire. Together, the authors will consider how their research has questioned assumptions about aesthetics and style in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, researching overlooked artists, and discuss the intersections of the body, gender, race, and empire through their work on sculpture and photography. They will also talk about the process of turning a PhD thesis into a book manuscript. The conversation will be chaired by PMC Head of Research and Learning, Sria Chatterjee.

This is event will take place at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art at 16 Bedford Square. Tickets are available to guests who wish to join us onsite for the live event. This event will also be live-streamed. Those with a digital ticket will receive instructions on how to join the event online at least one week prior to the event.

Book cover Victorian Visions of War & Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty, and Violence in the British Empire

The Victorian era witnessed the birth of photography and the rise of the illustrated press, creating a culture in which world events were increasingly defined by the production and consumption of images.

Examining moments of military and diplomatic crisis in the British Empire, this book considers how new forms of mass visual media intersected with the practices and discourses of the fine arts in ways that profoundly shaped the Victorian experience of global war and peace. The British Empire was frequently rendered into a spectacle of ‘peace’, from world’s fairs to diplomatic ceremonies. Yet the visual rituals of imperial peace unfurled against a backdrop of incessant colonial war – military campaigns that, far from being ignored, were in fact unprecedentedly visible within the popular cultural forms of Victorian society.

Encompassing early photographic processes, newspaper engraving, ‘on the spot’ sketching, oil painting, and cultures of exhibition and display, this book explores the role of visual technologies in guiding both the perception and the management of imperial rule in the nineteenth century.

Book cover The Classical Body in Romantic Britain

For many, the term ‘neoclassicism’ has come to imply discipline, order, restraint, and a certain myopia. Leaving the term behind, this book radically challenges enduring assumptions about the art produced from the late eighteenth century to the early Victorian period, casting new light on appropriations of the classical body by British artists. It is the first to foreground the intersections of gender, race, and class in discussions of British visual classicism, laying bare artists’ alternately politicising and emphatically sensual engagements with Greco-Roman art. Rather than rely exclusively on subsequent scholarship, the book takes up the poet John Keats (1795–1821) as a theoretical framework. Eschewing the ‘Golden Age’ narrative, which sees J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) as the pinnacle of the period’s artistic achievement, the book examines overlooked artists, such as Henry Howard (1769–1847) and John Graham Lough (1798–1876). The result is a fresh account of underappreciated works of British painting and sculpture.

About the speakers

  • Cora Gilroy-Ware headshot sitting on a bench

    Cora Gilroy-Ware’s research explores continuities between historic and contemporary, ancient and modern. Her doctoral project on the surprisingly under-researched classical nude in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century British art led to her first book, The Classical Body in Romantic Britain, and a broader interest in neglected chapters in the history of visual classicism. As a scholar of BIPOC heritage, she seeks to reconcile decolonial approaches with traditional art historical areas of concern. With support from the Henry Moore Foundation, she is currently at work on a second book project on adaptations of Greco-Roman art, particularly marble sculpture, among artists of African and indigenous American descent including Mary Edmonia Lewis, Augusta Savage, Selma Burke, Carrie Mae Weems and Kara Walker. She has curated exhibitions at Tate Britain and the Huntington, and written for the London Review of Books, Apollo, The White Review and other journals.

  • Sean Willcock is Departmental Lecturer in the History of Art in the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford. He was previously a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, and has held teaching positions at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Hong Kong, and on the Yale in London programme. He is Reviews Editor at the journal History of Photography. His first book, Victorian Visions of War & Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty and Violence in the British Empire, was published with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Yale University Press in 2021.

  • Sria Chatterjee standing in front of a white background

    Sria Chatterjee is an art historian and environmental humanities scholar. She is the Head of Research and Learning at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art in London. She specialises in the political ecologies of art and design from the colonial to the contemporary. She is currently working on her first book, which provides a close look at the deep links between nationalism, agriculture and the natural environment through the history of art, design and media. Sria is the founder and project lead for Visualizing the Virus, which investigates the diverse ways in which pandemics are visualised and the inequalities they make visible.

    In Autumn 2022, she launched the multi-year research project, Art, Climate & Colonialism at the Paul Mellon Centre. Sria received her PhD from the Art & Archaeology department at Princeton University in 2019. Sria has held fellowships and research positions at the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institute and the Swiss National Science Foundation. She has published numerous chapters, essays and articles some of which are forthcoming in Cultural PoliticsBritish Art StudiesMuseums History JournalContemporary Political Theory and other outlets including Noema magazine