Decentering Realisms: 1750 to Now

Decentering Realisms: 1750 to Now 

Seeking to expand and geographically and theoretically decentre our conceptualisations of realism in modern art this conference will ask how far and in what ways can art from across the world be comprehended under the expanded term ‘realism’? Realism is a notoriously slippery but pervasive and persistent concept that transcends style and medium, and which encompasses many forms of representation. It is a keyword of established art historical methodologies but it is also much more than this, it has proved to be a highly flexible term that is embedded in the terminologies of many distinct traditions and avant-gardes around the world. Papers explore how realism intersects with different forms of naturalism and how it can also extend to abstraction. At its core realism is often about capturing and intervening in something of the artist’s contemporary social reality through a set of aesthetic conventions. We are calling this the ‘realist effect’. Our aim is to bring art histories of realism in line with the geocultural expansion of the discipline, while at the same time seeking alternative understandings of this phenomenon to those offered by the politics and epistemologies of globalisation.

Organised by Thomas Hughes and Rachel Stratton 

Keynote papers for each day will be made available to watch before the event. Links will be sent to those registered and will be shared below. 

Wednesday 10th March:

Pre-recorded Keynote:

Lihong Liu (Sally Michelson Davidson Assistant Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures, University of Michigan): Ecological Realism in Art

Panel One: 2pm GMT Chair: Stephen Whiteman (Senior Lecturer, Art and Architecture of China, Courtauld Institute of Art, UK)


Julia Secklehner (Masaryk University, Czech Republic): Rural Realism: Social Documentary Photography Against Nationalism in Interwar Central Europe


Joe Bucciero (Princeton University, USA): Representation and Reification in the Paintings of Carl Grossberg

[20 mins BREAK]


Mertkan Karaca (Koç University, Turkey): The Development of Ottoman Realism: Science and Art in Nineteenth-Century Painting’


Niharika Dinkar (Boise State University, USA): Colonialism and the Crisis of Representation: Realism and its Legacies in India


Roundtable discussion: Lihong Liu, Julia Secklehner, Joe Bucciero, Mertkan Karaca and Niharika Dinkar. Chair: Stephen Whiteman

Thursday 11th March:

Pre-recorded Keynote:

Alex Potts (Emeritus Professor, University of Michigan, USA): Temporality and the Politics and Aesthetics of an Expanded Realism

Panel Two: 3pm GMT Chair: Kevin Chua (Associate Professor of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century European and Southeast Asian Art History, Texas Tech University, USA)


Laura Moure Cecchini (Colgate University, USA): Transatlantic and Hemispheric Realisms: Antonio Berni in the 1930s


Perrin Lathrop (Princeton University, USA): Realism and Modernism After Independence in Nigeria


Rahma Khazam (Sorbonne Paris 1, France): Between Realism and Idealism: The Three Realities of Socialist Realism


Roundtable discussion: Alex Potts, Laura Moure Cecchini, Perrin Lathrop, Rahma Khazam. Chair: Kevin Chua

Friday 12th March:

Pre-recorded Keynote:

Ho Tzu Nyen in conversation with Kevin Chua (Associate Professor of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century European and Southeast Asian Art History, Texas Tech University, USA)

Panel Three: 3pm GMT Chair: Boris Čučković (Associate Lecturer, Courtauld Institute of Art)


Daniel Martin Spaulding (Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Wisconsin University, WI): Surface Effects: Sayre Gomez in the City


Maryse Ouellet (University of Bonn, Germany): Referencing, Representing, Informing: The Meaning of Realism in Contemporary Art


Roundtable discussion: Daniel Martin Spaulding, Maryse Ouellet. Chair: Boris Čučković


Thomas Hughes and Rachel Stratton: concluding remarks and thanks


Decentering Realisms: 1750 to Now

10 Mar - 2 Feb 2023

10 Mar - 2 Feb 2023