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 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 non-human 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 non-human animal life.
We welcome proposals for papers discussing any period of British art, with a broad approach to the subject including colonial, imperial, and Commonwealth artists and works. Papers may discuss any visual media, including architecture, material culture, and print culture as well as painting and sculpture. In addition to paper panels, the symposium will include opportunities to view and discuss works from the YCBA’s collection, including its large holdings of Stubbs and other sporting art, and to visit the newly reopened Yale Peabody Museum.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
- Critical approaches to British animal artists
- Colonial and imperial animal encounters
- Animals in the construction of British identity
- Popular and vernacular animal arts, including sporting art and livestock portraits
- Animals and the environment, including conservation and extinction
- The impact of scientific study, classification, and theories on art
- Collection and display of animals, animal products, or animal art
- Depictions of animal products and material culture
- Animal materials in art production and conservation
The symposium will be held at Yale on Friday, May 3, 2024. Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and a short biography by Monday, February 26, 2024, 5 pm ET. Final presentations should not exceed 20 minutes in length.
The YCBA will provide travel and accommodations for successful applicants and will provide a travel stipend for graduate students interested in attending from within the Boston–New York corridor. For more information, please email email@example.com.