HomeLiving apart together? The troubled and treasured relationship between nature and human beings in art 1800-1900

HomeLiving apart together? The troubled and treasured relationship between nature and human beings in art 1800-1900

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Published on Friday, May 10, 2024

Abstract

With the growing realisation that nature and the earth’s climate are at risk of being destroyed, this conference aims to centralise the interconnectedness between nature and human beings, by analysing the depiction of their relationship in Western-European art, including the effects of colonialism, during the long nineteenth century.

Announcement

Argument

With the growing realisation that nature and the earth’s climate are at risk of being destroyed, this conference aims to centralise the interconnectedness between nature and human beings, by analysing the depiction of their relationship in Western-European art, including the effects of colonialism, during the long nineteenth century.

Within art, the natural world was long seen as a repository of motifs and forms from which artists borrowed to fashion their representations of social reality. Centuries of anthropocentric thinking, based on influential sources such as Aristotle’s writings and the Bible, have ingrained notions that human beings have dominion over the world and its inhabitants and this was reflected in the depiction of nature in art.

Even in the long nineteenth century, such notions were questioned. Around 1800 Alexander von Humboldt had already indicated the interdependence between nature and mankind. In addition, with the discovery of geological time in the late eighteenth century, came the realisation that the earth was eons older, and that human civilisation only occupied a fraction of a great terrestrial span. Such notions were also adopted by artists. In 1847 Théodore Rousseau painted a landscape with felled oak trees, while men are in the process of cutting down others. Rousseau later stated that he ‘wanted to arouse remorse on the part of people who unthinkingly chop down trees’. In the art dealer Boussod & Valadon’s stock books the painting was listed under the title La mort des innocents. In that same year Rousseau’s good friend the art critic Théophile Thoré attacked the French government for its mismanagement of the forest lands near Barbizon. Their actions helped lead to the Western world’s first state-established land preserves in 1853. Some ten years later Charles Darwin corroborated Von Humboldt’s thesis that all life is essentially interconnected and dependent upon each other in his Origin of Species. Moreover, with the advent of industrialisation and the enormous growth of the global population – the so-called Anthropocene – human beings’ actions gained such power that the world’s ecosystem is in danger of being annihilated. This realisation increasingly questioned man’s dominant position in epistemological and ontological paradigms, in exchange for a more integrated approach which puts co-dependency of life first.

By focussing on the depiction of the troubled relationship between nature and humans, around the corner as well as overseas, including the fascination for non-indigenous flora and fauna, we aim to answer questions such as: did changing opinions on nature have effect on nineteenth-century art?  Did nineteenth-century art have effect on the changing opinions on nature? How was the relationship between nature and human beings depicted? Which role did the advent of working en plein air play in artists’ bond with nature? Which role did ecology play in the depiction of nature? How did artists and critics manage to evoke their awareness of the changing attitudes towards nature in their work? Which role did colonialism play in artists’ perception of nature?

Practical informations

Fees

  • Regular: € 40
  • Students and online: € 15

Programme

9.45-10.15  Registration, Coffee & Tea

  • 10.15-10.20 Benno Tempel, director Kröller-Müller Museum: Welcome
  • 10.20-10.35 Mayken Jonkman, ESNA & Rijksmuseum and Sara Tas, co-organiser & Van Gogh Museum: Introduction to the conference theme

10.35-11.15 Keynote lecture

  • Colin Sterling, University of Amsterdam: Museum Ecologies: Past, Present, and Future

11.15-12.45 Session 1 Urban perspectives

Chair: Marjan Sterckx, ESNA & UGent

  • 11.15-11.35 Marte Stinis, Paul Mellon Centre: “My lovely London fogs”. The Aesthetics of Pollution
  • 11.35-11.55 Marie-Charlotte Lamy, University of Neuchâtel: The Universal Museum of Nature: Possessing the Animal Kingdom in Painting
  • 11.55-12.15 Annie Ronan, Virginia Tech: Edward Kemeys’ Last(ing) Buffalo. Preservation, Poison, and the Toxic Ecologies of American Animal Art
  • 12.15-12.35 Rachel Sloan, Courtauld Institute: Pissarro in the Great North Wood. Impressionism and urban nature in London

12.35-12.55 Session 1: Questions and Discussion

  • 12.55-13.05 Jannet de Goede, Kröller-Müller Museum: Introduction to the exhibition The Wood for the Trees

13.05-14.30 Lunch and visit to the exhibition

14.30-16.30 Session 2 Facing nature

Chair: Rachel Esner, ESNA & UvA

  • 14.30-14.50 Daniel Ralston, National Gallery London: José María Velasco and the Image of Mexico
  • 14.50-15.10 Vicki Pugh, The Institute for Social Justice York St John University: Omissions of the nineteenth-century seascape. Exploring the ‘Anthropocene’ of Turner’s Bass Rock and Edinburgh Sketchbook (1818)
  • 15.10-15.30 Daniël Hendrikse, (cultural) historian: The view from the ice cave. Representations of Romanticism, exploration and the Anthropocene in nineteenth-century photography
  • 15.30-15.50 Annemiek Rens, Drents Museum: ‘Full of the silent, gloomy heaths’. The healing effect of nature in Drenthe for Van Gogh and others

15.50-16.10 Session 2: Questions and Discussion

16.10-16.30 wrap up

16.30-18.00 drinks and bites

Organisers

  • European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art, in participation with Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Places

  • Kröller-Müller Museum - Houtkampweg 6
    Otterlo, Holland (6731 AW)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


Date(s)

  • Friday, May 24, 2024

Keywords

  • nineteenth century, art history, nature, ecological history

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Lotte Kremer
    courriel : esnaonline [at] hotmail [dot] com

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Living apart together? The troubled and treasured relationship between nature and human beings in art 1800-1900 », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Friday, May 10, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/11nqt

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