Emma Merkling

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Emma Merkling

PhD student

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19 Oct

Dissertation: ‘Victorian Physics and Metaphysics in Evelyn De Morgan’s Art’

Supervised by Caroline Arscott and Jo Applin

My research considers Evelyn De Morgan’s paintings between the early 1880s and her death in 1919 alongside developments in Victorian physics. I argue that her art engages with scientific concerns on several levels, from her choice of subject matter and broader compositional and narrative structures, to her formal means and visual procedures. De Morgan’s paintings show an ongoing interest in issues of energy expenditure, transformation, work, the transient and the eternal, ultimate reality and its representation, and the relationship between the material/physical and immaterial/metaphysical. Though previous scholars have also identified some of these interests, they have for the most part focused on De Morgan’s eclectic visual style and interest in allegorical, theological, and feminist subject matter without relating these explicitly to contemporary physics. My dissertation examines the work of contemporary physicists (many of whom were also popularisers of science) alongside De Morgan’s paintings. I am interested in how concepts surrounding “energy,” the scientific method, probability, inductive logic, and other facets of Victorian physics might have provided her with a useful framework for exploring these concerns, and simultaneously imbued her concerns with scientific authority. I hope to chart the extent to which her paintings were inflected with, and exploited, the imagery, logic, structures, and metaphorical potential of key terms and concepts in Victorian physics.


  • PhD History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2017 – present)
  • MA History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2017)
  • BA Art History and Archaeology, Columbia College, Columbia University (2015)

Awards, Grants, and Fellowships

Professional Activities

Research Interests

  • 19th-century science (physics, mathematics, and psychophysiology)
  • Late Victorian and Aesthetic Movement art
  • Modernism and Modernist art
  • Women artists


  • 2019 – 2020: Teaching Assistant, Core Methodologies (MA), The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • 2019 – 2020: Teaching Assistant, Victorian Science and Aesthetic Movement Art (MA), The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • 2017 – 2018: Teaching Assistant, Victorian Science and Aesthetic Movement Art (MA), The Courtauld Institute of Art


Conference Papers

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