The Pre-Raphaelites and Science: Talk from Professor John Holmes

Arts - Lecture Room 3 (LR3)
Lectures Talks and Workshops
Friday 19th October 2018 (14:00-15:00)
Download the date to your calendar (.ics file)

Birmingham is home to arguably the finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world.

The city was also one of the engines of science and industry in nineteenth century. These two sides of Victorian culture can seem worlds apart, with the Pre-Raphaelites retreating from the modern age into medieval fantasy. In this talk, John Holmes will show how the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, far from being medieval escapists, set out to create an art that would be scientific in its methods and modern in its outlook.

Looking at some of their best and best-known paintings, he will trace how they undertake ‘investigations’ into nature and human psychology, as William Michael Rossetti, one of the original PRB, put it in The Spectator in 1851.

As the Pre-Raphaelites modelled their art on science, so their scientific contemporaries took up Pre-Raphaelite art as a visual language to communicate science in a new natural history museum built in Oxford in the 1850s. A vision of nature in stone, iron and glass, the Oxford Museum was both one of the boldest experiments in nineteenth-century architecture and a unique collaboration between some of the most brilliant artists and the leading scientists of the day.

john holmes cover

John Holmes is Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Birmingham. His book The Pre-Raphaelites and Science has recently been published by Yale University Press.