Contact details

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House

Strand, London



Professor Caroline Arscott
Caroline Arscott came into art history from the study of English Literature at Cambridge University. She studied the Social History of Art at the University of Leeds, working with T. J. Clark, Griselda Pollock and Fred Orton. She did research work at Leeds, working on modern life painting in Victorian art, Victorian patronage and the representation of nineteenth-century industrial cities. She has been lecturing at The Courtauld Institute since1988: extending her study of the Victorian art world from an initial focus on the 1840s and 1850s into work on the pre-Victorian period in relation to urban topography and the late Victorian period in relation to the Aesthetic Movement.   She was a member of the Editorial Board of the Oxford Art Journal  from 1998-2008.   As Head of Research she is responsible for the Research Forum programme of activities and for The Courtauld Institute’s research strategy.


Current research/interests


Caroline Arscott’s current work extends from an interest in George Scharf the elder, Frith and Millais to Whistler, Burne- Jones and William Morris via investigations into the nineteenth-century armaments industry, stained glass production, thermodynamics, neurology, horticulture, sensation/ horror fiction and Victorian tattooing. She has recently been working on Darwin and aesthetics.  She is particularly interested in the development of scientific and medical theory in the Victorian age and the impact that this has on the artistic imagination.


Courses Taught in 2013-14


MA Special Option

This Special Option is a course on the art of the Asthetic Movement launched for the first time in October 2008.  The art of the Aesthetic Movement brought in a new emphasis on the suffering/pleasured body, that hypersensuality that led to the artists of this group (such as Rossetti) being denounced as the ‘Fleshly School’.  Art historical research to date has focused mainly on the move away from narrative incident and morality in these works and on the issue of eroticism and the represented body as a site for sexual response.  This course seeks to make possible fresh arguments concerning the evocation of sense in these works by drawing on Victorian scientific debates about the role of the senses and the relationship between mind and body.  The central section of the course will be on the issues of sensory stimulation, subjectivity and identity in the 1870s with special emphasis on the work of the scientist and author George Henry Lewes (Problems of Life and Mind , 1874-9) who was a close friend of the artist Edward Burne-Jones.  The course also includes discussion of literary work by authors including Wilkie Collins and George Eliot.  The course aims to establish a broad context for an understanding of the interface between art and science in the period.


Recent lectures


‘William Morris Carpets: Action in Design’, research presentation for art history department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, October 2012

‘Colour as Lure and Provocation’, NAVSA keynote, Madison USA, September 2012

‘William Morris Carpets: Action in Design’, lecture for Pre Raphaelite Society, Birmingham, July 2012

"William Morris's The Woodpecker Tapestry: Evolution and Utopia"
Sarah Cutts Frerichs Lecture in Victorian Studies, Brown University, April 2011

Recent/forthcoming publications


Recently Published

‘Subject and Object in Whistler: The Context of Physiological Aesthetics’, in L. Glazer and L. Merrill (eds.), Palaces of Art: Whistler and the Art Worlds of Aestheticism, Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, pp. 55-66, 2013
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'William Morris's Tapestry: Metamorphosis and Prophecy in The Woodpecker, in Art History Special Issue: The Clever Object. Edited by Matthew C. Hunter and Francesco Lucchini Volume 36, Issue 3, pp. 608–625, June 2013

‘Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98)’, in E. Prettejohn (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 223-235, 2012.

‘Everyday Variety and Classical Constraint in Victorian Drawings’ in Life, legend, landscape: Victorian drawings and watercolours edited by Joanna Selborne, exhibition catalogue, London: The Courtauld Gallery, pp. 36-39, 2011.

Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris: Interlacings
, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2008.
This is a book about themes and allusions in the paintings of Edward Burne-Jones and the designs of William Morris.  It represents the first serious study of the close interconnections in theme, allusion and formal strategy between Burne-Jones’s later paintings and the designs of William Morris.  This study’s pairing of a painter with a designer of decorative items makes it possible to draw out underlying relationships between history painting and ornament in a period which saw the erosion of the hierarchy of the arts and a revision of the nature and meaning of history.  A guiding theme of the book is the persistent occurrence of military themes in Burne-Jones’s painting and William Morris’s design work.  An account is given of the fighting body and the model of masculinity that is adopted by these two artists.   Also important are the strong intimations of pleasure and pain are a key aspect of the artwork in both cases.  The masochistic scenarios and structure of Burne-Jones’s work find their match in a joyous embrace of agony in Morris’s, with the difference that Morris’s work is not marked by the fetishistic formulae that are a recurrent feature of Burne-Jones’s output.

‘Archaeology of the Modern’ in George Scharf: From the Regency Street to the Modern Metropolis, exhibition catalogue, London, The Soane Gallery, 2009, pp. 27-42.

‘Walter Sickert and Roger Fry: “Alight Here for Whiteley’s”’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 75th Anniversary Issue, 2008.
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‘Mutability and Deformity: Models of the Body and the Art of Edward Burne-Jones’, Nineteen:Interdsiciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth-Century , Issue 7 (October 2008) Special Issue Minds, Bodies, Machines
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‘William Powell Frith’s The Railway Station: Classification and the Crowd’, in William Powell Frith, exhibition catalogue, London, Guildhall Art Gallery, November 2006, pp. 79-93.

 ‘Stenographic Notation: Whistler’s Etchings of Venice’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, 2006, pp. 371-393.

 ‘William Morris: Decoration and Materialism’ in Andrew Hemingway (ed.), Marxism and the History of Art: From William Morris to the New Left, Pluto Press, London, Ann Arbor, MI, 2006, pp. 9-27.

 ‘Four Walls: Morris and Ornament’, in Dave Mabb, William Morris, with essays by Caroline Arscott and Steve Edwards, exhibition catalogue, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 2004, pp. 58-69.

'Victorian Representations of Childhood' in Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 9, no. 1, spring 2004, pp. 96-107: contribution to cluster of articles ‘Roundtable: Victorian Children and Childhood’ alongside contributions by Hugh Cunningham and Sally Shuttleworth.  This article focuses on Millais.
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‘The sculptural logic of Burne-Jones’s stained glass’ in D. Getsy (ed.), Victorian Sculpture, Scolar/Ashgate, Aldershot, 2004, pp. 39-62.

 ‘Response to Amelia Jones’s Body and Technology Forum’, Art Journal, vol. 60, no. 2, summer 2001, pp. 4-5.

‘Representations of the Victorian City’ in M. Daunton, (ed.), Cambridge Urban History of Britain: Volume Three (1840-1950), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 811-32.

 C. Arscott and K. Scott (eds.), Manifestations of Venus: Essays on Art and Sexuality, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000.   

Joint editor of the volume, joint author of the first chapter ‘Introducing Venus’, pp. 1-23 and sole author of chapter 6, ‘Venus as Dominatrix: nineteenth-century artists and their creations’, pp. 109-125 (on John Gibson and Edward Burne-Jones).

‘Convict Labour: Masking and Interchangeability in Victorian Prison Scenes’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 23, no. 2, 2000, pp. 119-42 (on Frith).

‘Luke Fildes: from Graphic to Academic’ in Colin Trodd and Rafael Cardoso Denis (eds.), Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000, pp. 102-16.

Articles also published on Leighton, Tissot, Poynter, Frith, Holman Hunt and Victorian representations of northern cities.


Pre-Raphaelite, Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Aesthetic Movement, Ornament, Genre