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Curating Feeling: Victorian Sentimental Art

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Xinyi Liu.

This talk will discuss the experience of co-curating an exhibition at Tate Britain on the theme of ‘Victorian Sentimentality’. The paintings, on display at the Tate until November 30th, are arranged in classic categories of Victorian sentimentality (animals, jilted women, families under stress, old age, dying children) but in a way that suggests different approaches to appreciating this kind of art. In particular, we focus on identifying and valuing an aesthetics of sentimentality in these paintings, which were both admired and condemned by Victorian critics.

I will consider the museum’s role in determining the value of Victorian sentimental art, both in the nineteenth century and today. The first part of the talk will discuss nineteenth-century debates about sentimental art and literature and consider how the term ‘sentimental’ was used in the Victorian period as a signifier of aesthetic value. I will focus on the debates over the Chantrey Bequest in relation to Joseph Clark’s Mother’s Darling, 1884 and the modernist critique of Luke Fildes’s The Doctor, 1891. Secondly, I will discuss the experience of curating the display as an attempt to represent Victorian sentimental art to a contemporary audience.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Seminars series.

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