Theatre, Art, and Visual Culture in the 19th Century, session at the Association for Art History Annual Conference 2020, Newcastle

Patricia Smyth's picture
Call for Papers
October 21, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre & Performance History / Studies


Convened on behalf of the three-year AHRC-funded project, ‘Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century’, this session seeks to create cross-disciplinary dialogue between scholars of art history, visual culture and theatre history. The 19th century is known as a period of blurred boundaries between previously distinct media, as evidenced by the growing importance of spectacle in stage productions, the circulation of images and motifs between media, and also by the frequent application of the term ‘theatrical’ to a certain type of narrative painting. This trans-medial visual culture operated through a range of new technologies, from printing methods such as lithography, to optical toys and spectacular entertainments like the panorama and the diorama, the visual effects of which were also attempted on stage. In looking laterally across media (and disciplinary) boundaries, we hope to offer new insights into contemporary debates about spectatorship, cultural legitimacy, popular taste, and the relationship between high art and entertainment.

We invite proposals from researchers working on any aspect of the relationship between theatre and the visual arts in this period. We particularly welcome considerations of the Northumberland-born artist John Martin. The theatricality of Martin’s work was foregrounded by the 2011–12 Tate Britain exhibition, which used special effects to convey its status as the 19th-century equivalent of the blockbuster movie. This example raises questions about how inventive curatorial practices might convey the experience of 19th-century spectators to 21st-century viewers in the midst of our own technological revolution

This session will consist of six 25-minute papers presented over the course of one day as part of the 46thAnnual Conference of the Association of Art History, co-hosted by Newcastle University and Northumbria University, 1-3 April 2020. The conference will be held across both campuses in the city centre and will include many opportunities to explore the vibrant cultural landscape of the North East of England. In addition to academic sessions and research papers, we anticipate that the 2020 Annual Conference will include a mix of events including artists’ film screenings, performances, roundtable discussions, and site visits.

Submit a paper

Please email your paper proposals direct to Patricia Smyth (, using the Proposal Form available on the Association for Art History website. You need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper, your name and institutional affiliation (if any). Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media and in the printed programme. You should receive an acknowledgement receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenors.

Contact Info: 

Patricia Smyth, University of Warwick

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