Victorian Visions: Art, Industry and the Modern (AHV3004)

30 credits

This module studies the intersection between the visual, literary, and decorative arts in Victorian Britain; it focuses on how these arts developed in conjunction with industrial innovation and the changing features of modern life. In the nineteenth century, art, industry and modernity were intertwined in complex, reciprocal and multifaceted ways. Victorian artists – of all kinds – had to engage with a key question – how to paint ‘modern life’ at a time when the traditional hierarchies and forms of art were disintegrating. The Great Exhibition heralded a new age in which art and industry would be combined in order to bring beauty to the masses. Verbal and visual modes were drawn closer together as the development of the realist novel was complemented by the popularity of narrative painting, while Aesthetes claimed that all arts should aspire to the perfection of music. At the same time, developments in visual technology such as the illustrated press, photography, and the cinematograph not only created a new world of popular art; they changed the period’s understanding of subjectivity and perception in ways that reverberated throughout culture. This module will explore these key issues through such fascinating topics as Technology and Visual Perception; Art and Industry and Word/Image. It will examine how key Victorian art movements including the Gothic Revival, Pre-Raphaelitism, Aestheticism and Arts and Crafts, was not only engaged with the modernity of the period but also intersected with literary developments.