2013 Allen R. Hite Memorial Lecture: Caroline Arscott
Arscott will deliver an Evening Lecture from 6-7 pm. This lecture discusses William Morris’s adoption of tapestry in the 1880s in terms of its allegorisation of the losses and gains of both historical and biological processes. Colour and its role in the natural world, as discussed in evolutionary theory provides a focus. The processes of tapestry itself, the movement of the shuttle and positioning of the weft and the gradual building up of the image are considered in relation to the prophetic mode deployed by Morris in the verses written on his tapestries published in his Poems By the Way of 1891. The lecture centres on the example of the tapestry The Woodpecker (1885, exhibited 1888) where Morris’s woodpecker motif refers to the story of Picus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The context of metamorphosis leads to a discussion of the woodpecker’s significance in that Victorian revisiting of metamorphosis, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This is contextualised by a discussion of other Victorian theorisations of evolution and the evolutionary emergence of consciousness. The lecture discusses the morphology of form and the sequence of substitutions involved in sexual selection: the move from a reliance on the power of song to a recourse to instrumental music, and then a further move to the use of coloured display in creatures seeking an advantage in courtship. The declarative and the tacit aspects of Morris’s tapestry are addressed in order to assess the potential for the elaboration of grand themes in a form of art that seemingly abjures the grandiose theatre of human action.
Feb 11, 2013
from 06:00 pm to 07:00 pm
|Contact Name||Renee Murphy|
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William Morris, The Woodpecker, 1885, wool and silk on cotton. Courtesy of the William Morris Gallery
Caroline Arscott came into art history form the study of English Literature at Cambridge University. She studied the the Social History of Art at the University of Leeds, working with T. J. Clark, Griselda Pollock and Fred Orton. She did research work at Leeds, working on modern life painting in Victorian art, Victorian patronage and the representation of nineteenth-century industrial cities. She has been lecturing at the Courtauld Institute since 1988; extending her study of the Victorian art world from an initial focus on the 1840s and 1850s into work on the pre-Victorian period in relation to urban topography and the late Victorian period in relation to the Aesthetic Movement. She was a member of the Editorial Board of the Oxford Art Journal from 1998-2008. As head of research she is responsible for the Research Forum programme of activities and for the Courtauld Institute's research strategy. In 2013 she starts a new collaborative project on the cultural effects of submarine telegraphy, working with colleagues in English Literature and engineering at King's College London and University College London.