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British Art as International Art, 1851 to 1960 Postgraduate Symposium

British Art as International Art, 1851 to 1960 Postgraduate Symposium

Postgraduate Symposium

20 Apr 2012 – 21 Apr 2012

Keynote speakers will be Michael Hatt of The University of Warwick and Emma Chambers of Tate Britain.

James Joseph Tissot, Ramsgate (1876), courtesy British Museum.

There has been two decades of vigorous interest in British art history, but up to now this has tended to assume a more or less unproblematic category of national identity and has not enquired closely into the elusive idea of ‘Britishness'. More recently, the concept of the transnational has proved to be a productive way for art historians in the 21st century to reflect not only on contemporary art, but also that of previous centuries. This graduate conference will address the extent to which these two approaches overlap in British art between 1851 and 1960, not only in terms of British artists working abroad and non-British artists adopting Britain as a base, but also in less tangible or previously unconsidered ways.

Asia by J.H. Foley, part of the Four Continents group from the Albert Memorial, South    India House, Aldwych, Sir Herbert Baker, 1930.

Between 1851 and 1960, Britain's global position altered radically – from the early consolidation of British imperial power in the mid-nineteenth century, through two world wars, the rise of the US to the reassessment of Britain's political and cultural position in the post-war world, against a background of increasingly porous national and cultural boundaries. In this context, British art's relationship with ‘the international' seems a pertinent topic to consider, particularly from our own, increasingly ‘transnational' perspective. ‘Transnational' and ‘international' are problematic terms here – the former reflects our own, more fluid concept of nationhood in the 21st century, while the latter offers a clearer definition of how nations were considered between 1851 and 1960. But is it possible to study British art of this period from our ‘transnational' viewpoint? Can we talk of British art as separate from Britain as a nation or nationality? If British art between 1851 and 1960 cannot be considered ‘transnational' in our terms, nor wholly ‘British', how can it be considered in ‘international terms'?

We welcome papers from graduate students working in any field who engage with and reflect upon British art as international art. Keynote speakers will be Michael Hatt of The University of Warwick and Emma Chambers of Tate Britain.

Please send an abstract of up to 300 words to by 5pm on Friday 20th January. Papers should be no longer than 20 minutes.

Please include your name, institutional affiliation, contact details and paper title with your submission.

For further information please contact

Topics for discussion could include but are not limited to:

  • The continued historical usefulness of ‘Britishness' in analysing British art.
  • Internationalism and the self – roots, rootlessness and the multiple national identities of ‘British' artists
  • International travel and art
  • Émigré activity and migration
  • Britons and/or Anglophiles abroad
  • Insularity and the failures of British Internationalism
  • British art and fantasies/dreams of other cultures
  • The relationships between British artists and colonialism, empire, the commonwealth, confederacy, NATO, etc.
  • British art as export commodity – Britain as a brand?
  • Internationalism and institutions – the interaction between nationalism and internationalism and gender/sexuality/economics
  • Internationalism and war

Organised by Kate Aspinall, Rosanna Eckersley, Kitty Hudson and Greg Salter.

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