Animal Studies and British Art Graduate Student Symposium

Co-organized by the Yale Center for British Art, the Yale Department of the History of Art, and the Yale Peabody Museum

The objective of this one-day, in-person graduate student symposium is to reconsider the proliferation of animals in British art through the lens of the burgeoning field of animal studies. British art is renowned for its inclusion of animals: the racehorses and lions of George Stubbs, the stags and dogs of Sir Edwin Landseer, Edward Lear’s scientific illustrations and nonsense creatures, and Damien Hirst’s controversial shark and sheep, to name only a few. The animal subject can be seen as a defining trait of British art. The recent Wallace Collection exhibition Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney asserted that “more than any other nationality perhaps, the British have both commissioned and collected portraits of dogs,” a statement that might also apply to imagery of horses or livestock. There has been little critical study of the significance of these creatures across the span of British art history, but the recent “animal turn” in scholarship is primed to rectify this lacuna.

Animal studies is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to investigate the relationship between humans and nonhuman animals and the effects and implications of that relationship across a wide range of disciplines, including aesthetics, ecology, ethics, and politics. Some objectives of the field are to challenge anthropocentric views of history and culture and to push for understandings of animals as actors, rather than objects, in their own histories. British art is ripe for such recontextualization, not only because of the rich history of animal engagement within the British Isles, but also because of the global impacts of Britain’s imperial ambitions on nonhuman animal life. 



Please register for this symposium here.


Download a PDF of the schedule here


10–10:15 am

Welcome and Introduction

Sarah Mead Leonard, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale Center for British Art


10:15–11:15 am 

Panel One  

Chair: Stéphanie Machabée, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale Center for British Art

“. . . that shell which is so much esteem’d”: An Ecocritical and Material Study of Tortoiseshell in Britain’s Long Eighteenth Century
Katie DiDomenico, PhD candidate, Art History, Washington University in St. Louis

Pet Animals as Connectors: Exploring the Role of Pet Animals in Shaping British Identity and Colonial Encounters in Eighteenth-Century British Portraiture
Luba Kozak, PhD candidate, Faculty of Media, Arts, and Performance, University of Regina


11:15–11:20 am    



11:20 am – 12:20 pm

Panel Two

Chair: Sarah Mead Leonard, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale Center for British Art

Picturing Carceral Space: The Shift in Sir Edwin Landseer’s Depictions of Animal Incarceration
Anna Orton-Hatzis, PhD candidate, Art History, CUNY Graduate Center

Reconsidering Turner’s Fish Studies
Isaiah LaGrand, MA candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Massachusetts


12:20–1:30 pm       



1:30–2:50 pm       

Panel 3     

Chair: Sarah Bochicchio, PhD candidate, History of Art, Yale University

Bodies on the Books: Delight, Display, and Disgust in the Early Modern Home
Madeleine Sheahan, PhD candidate, History of Science and Medicine and Early Modern Studies, Yale University

Extraordinary Beasts for Eastern Princes: Animals and the Construction of Imperial Imaginaries on James Cox (ca. 1723–1800)’s Clocks
Sylvia Tongyan Qiu, PhD candidate, Art History, University of California, Los Angeles

A Tiger in Sheep’s Clothing: Empire and Industry in Mary Linwood’s Tygress
Zoë Dostal, PhD candidate, Art History, Columbia University


2:50–3:15 pm   



3:15–4:15 pm   


Animal Studies: Domesticated, Disembodied, Disruptive
Romita Ray, Associate Professor, Art History, Syracuse University, and Kate Nichols, Associate Professor in Art History, University of Birmingham, in conversation with Edward Cooke, Charles F. Montgomery Professor of the History of Art, Yale University


For more information, please contact


Top image
George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable-lad, 1774, beeswax and oil on panel, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

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