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  • EVENTS

Art History Research Seminars S1.

Art History Research Seminar Programme Semester 1, 2023

Thursdays 3.00 – 4.30pm Zoom Link: https://bit.ly/arht-s1-2023

Louis Victor Paul Bacard, La Goulue. Photograph, c.1885, courtesy of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.


2 March, Sheridan Palmer, The Abbey Art Centre: A Post WW2 Artist Colony

Peter Graham and Douglas Green, Abbey Art Centre (c. 1947-49). Unknown photographer, private collection, courtesy the artists’ estates


Models for writing art history range between globalised world views, national, regional or local histories, the enduring monograph and topics from art movements to issue-based accounts. But how do we accommodate the artist colony, which attracts artists from elsewhere, of differing nationalities, brought together in a single geo-spatial frame.


Stemming from a current ARC Discovery project examining one artist colony, the Abbey Art Centre, on the rural outskirts of post WW2 London, falls into a different category, one that reflected the effects of exiled European artists and transient Australian artists. At a time when major geo-political, economic and cultural postwar reconstruction was underway, the Abbey Art Centre, formed along lines of socialist and utopian patronage, offered a unique spatial and creative modality that operated within a potent framework of ethnographic modernism. This paper considers the ‘all-but-forgotten’ Abbey Art Centre as a collage of postwar cultural predicaments and offers an important lens for reassessing transnational artistic experimentation and modernist production.


Dr Sheridan Palmer is an art historian, curator and a senior research associate at the University of Melbourne, and a Fellow of the Centre of Visual Art, VCA. She is currently working on the ARC project ‘The Abbey Art Centre: Reassessing postwar Australian modernism’. Her major publications include: Hegels Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith, Power Publications, Sydney, 2016; Editor, 3rd edition of Bernard Smith’s European Vision and the South Pacific, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2022; Centre of the Periphery: Three European Art Historians in Melbourne, ASP, 2008; Antipodean Perspective: Selected Writings of Bernard Smith, co-edited with Rex Butler, Monash University Publishing, 2018.




9 March, Andrés Mario Zervigón, Visible Yet Transparent: The Lens in Nineteenth-Century Photographic Cultures

Jean Baptiste Sabatier-Blot - Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre 1844


In 1890, the famous Jena Glass Works of Carl Zeiss released the Anastigmat photographic lens to great fanfare. The nearly faultless mimesis it generated seemed to conclude a chapter in optical technology that had progressed in a predetermined manner since photography’s origins. But why exactly had Zeiss developed its expensive mechanism and what drove photographers to buy it? This talk proposes that the consistent focus and varied depth of field that the Anastigmat provided were not in and of themselves the desired goals of the new “corrected lens,” but that they were instead visible signals of a pictorial model that makers and consumers had been seeking since the public introduction of photography in 1839. The goal was a transparent realism that remained stubbornly external to the medium, an illusionistic standard that had largely been mediated by painting since the renaissance and was now apparently possible in photography as well.


Andrés Mario Zervigón is Professor of the History of Photography at Rutgers, the State University in New Jersey (USA). He is author of John Heartfield and the Agitated Image (2012) and Photography and Germany (2017). With Tanya Sheehan he edited Photography and Its Origins (2014), with Sabine Kriebel Photography and Doubt (2017), and with Donna Gustafson Subjective-Objective: A Century of Social Photography (2017). His current book project is a history of Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung, for which he received a CASVA Senior Fellowship (2013-14). Zervigón leads The Developing Room, an academic working group at Rutgers devoted to photography studies.


27 April, Will Visconti, La Goulue and the Problematic Gaze

Although best known as a muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Goulue (Louise Weber, 1866-1929) was a frequent sitter for photographers and other artists from her teen years until her death. Representations of La Goulue range from the works of fin-de-siècle artists like Charles Conder and Emile Bernard to twentieth-century artists like Kees Van Dongen and Leon Kelly. This paper examines how La Goulue returns, challenges, and problematises the gaze. She also queers the gaze in more ways than one, via her feisty persona that provides a rebuke to predominantly bourgeois male audience members, and through rumours surrounding her sexuality, which find their expression in visual representations of La Goulue and other performers around her. La Goulue’s representation sits within a continuum of nineteenth-century photography that spans other celebrities and performers, such as Virginia Verasis Oldoini, the Comtesse de Castiglione, or the ballerina and alleged courtesan Cléo de Mérode.

Will Visconti is coordinator of the Italian major at UTS His research focuses primarily on gender, sexuality, representation and transgression, and his first book, Beyond the Moulin Rouge: The Life and Legacy of La Goulue, was published in 2022 by the University of Virginia Press. Two of his forthcoming publications are an article in French Screen Studies about the television series Maison Close, and a chapter in the Routledge Companion to the History of Paris Since 1789. Will’s current research projects include examinations of obscenity in Victorian literature, the material culture of nineteenth-century sex work, and the comic potential of the cancan.



4 May, Chiara O’Reilly and Anna Lawrenson, Beyond Culture; The Role of Museums in Contemporary Society

More to come

25 May, Suzanne Bravery, Keeping Up Appearances: Authenticity and the Representation of Historic House Museum Interiors

More to come

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