Professor Caroline Arscott
This is a course on the fine art production of artists associated with the Aesthetic Movement: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Simeon Solomon, Albert Moore, J. A. M. Whistler, Edward Burne-Jones, George Frederic Watts, Evelyn de Morgan and others. The suggestions of sensory overload in the images made by these artists, the approach to space and motion in the compositions and the bold physicality of the figures they depict are discussed in terms of developments in Victorian science. The main focus of the course is the 1870s. We will consider the impact of thermodynamic theory, cell theory, conceptions of morphology in Darwinist biology and physiological psychology. The course involves readings from Victorian science publications as well as work on the aesthetic theory important for Aestheticism (for instance writing by Ruskin and Pater). We will study the work of certain artists in detail, attending to personal factors, institutional factors such as exhibition, dealer and collector networks and , the art criticism of the day and broader cultural frameworks. The course will involve close scrutiny of Victorian works in collections such as Tate Britain, Guildhall Art Gallery, Leighton House, Victoria & Albert Museum as well as important non-metropolitan collections.