Category Archives: University of Birmingham Events

Journal of Art Historiography, Conference 2013: Negotiating Boundaries – The Plural Fields of Art History

The 2013 conference of the Journal of Art Historiography (which is published by the Art History, Film and Visual Studies Department, University of Birmingham) Negotiating Boundaries – The Plural Fields of Art History is to be held at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, on 1-2 July 2013.

Keynote Speakers:
Robert Bagley (Princeton University), Styles, Periods and the Life Cycle of the Goblin
Alice Donohue (Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania), History and the Historian of Ancient Art

Speakers: Laura Camille Agoston (Trinity University, San Antonio ), Priyanka Basu (St Norbert College, Wisconsin), Colleen Becker (Columbia University), Laura Breen (University of Westminster), Lesley Brubaker (University of Birmingham), Antoinette Friedenthal (Independent Scholar), Jannis Galanopoulos and Georgia Metaxa (University of Crete and Athens School of Fine Art), Jack Hartnell (The Courtauld Institute of ArtLondon), Sandy Heslop and Joanne Clarke (Sainsbury Institute for Art, East Anglia), Stefan Muthesius (University of East Anglia), Meredith Nelson-Berry (Brad Graduate Centre, New York), Heike Neumeister (Birmingham City University), Amalia Papaioannou  (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University).

The formation of art history as a discipline was underpinned by the claim to a special area of expertise which, in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was accompanied by the development of particular concepts and methods, from the formal and spatial analysis of Wölfflin, Riegl or Schmarsow to the iconology of Panofsky. Linked to the emergence of the concept of autonomous art, the establishment of the discipline was achieved by means of certain exclusions; a rigid line of demarcation was drawn between art history and archaeology, aesthetic judgments were deemed irrelevant and, in a mirroring of Kantian thought, the decorative and applied arts became the objects of a separate, less prestigious, domain of inquiry.

For all the recent talk of interdisciplinarity, these exclusions still shape the terrain of scholarship, producing numerous incongruities. Art historians still seldom discuss the applied arts, while in the Anglophone world architectural history remains a separate subject (with its own professional and discursive institutions). Prehistoric art and the art of the classical worlds are still topics mostly of interest for archaeologists rather than art historians, while the division between fine art and the applied arts has produced a caesura between the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern’ in the historiography of, for example, the art of the Islamic world or China.

This conference is not concerned with calling for a renewed embrace of interdisciplinary thinking, but rather with considering the implications of the status quo. Why are certain art historical topics still the domain of researchers in other disciplines? What are the consequences? Given the contemporary skepticism towards totalizing forms of thought, should it be even seen as a problem that discourse on art is so plural?

Click here for the full programme details.

Daily rate: £30 Full conference: £50
Students and unwaged: £10 daily rate
There is no fee for University of Birmingham students

To book your place please visit our secure online shop and follow the link to the College of Arts and Law conference and events page


Five Paintings, Ten Minutes Each = 300 Years of Art History!

Question: What do a couple of thieving peasants, the Marriage Feast at Cana, a Russian countess, a Monet landscape and a lady arranging her hair all have in common?

Answer: They are all paintings from the Barber Institute that formed part of our Art History Speed Workshop that took place on Wednesday 20th March as part of UoB’s Arts and Science Festival.

The idea was the brainchild of PhD student Carly Hegenbarth during a brief meeting in the autumn term when we were racking our brains as to what we could offer the Festival: we wanted something that would be different and fun and at the same time show case both the Barber’s collection and the talents of some of our up-coming researchers. Like speed dating (well, sort of…), the idea was to get people up close and personal to a work of art for a short space of time, and then, when the bell rang (or rather my mobile phone), to move them on to the next picture. Will it work, we thought? Will we have enough people? Will everyone be able to keep to time? Will anyone ask any questions?

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After a bit of a slow start, the number of people registering for the workshop began to pick up, with a sudden flurry of a dozen or so people expressing their interest up until a few hours before. Thus we found ourselves with some thirty participants congregating in the Barber Foyer on the Wednesday at 2pm. These included current students and employees of UoB from across the disciplines, retired professors, and people from the local community.

Divided into five groups and armed with a postcard listing the paintings to be explored, our Speed Workshoppers went off to their first painting with their PhD student and the stopwatch was set to ten minutes. Walking round the gallery to see how things were going, it was interesting to catch snippets of the talks being given or the questions asked. ‘Do you think these are good or bad peasants?’, Jamie asked of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Peasants Binding Faggots from the early 1600s while, round the corner, Amy was pointing out the patrons of Murillo’s Marriage Feast at Cana, depicted as the married couple in the biblical scene.

Brueghel, Peasants Binding Faggots, early 1600s

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Peasants Binding Faggots, early 1600s

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Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Marriage Feast at Cana (1672)

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In the Beige Gallery, Carly’s group were wondering about the diagonal background to Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s portrait of Countess Golovine. Was it the shadow of the guillotine, someone mused…

Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Countess Golovine (1797/1800)

Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Countess Golovine (1797/1800)

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In the Blue gallery Imogen was relating Monet’s Church at Varengeville to Impressionist practices and, nearby, Hannah was making her listeners think hard about what we expect in a portrait in relation to Vuillard’s Mme Vuillard Arranging her Hair. Ginny Turner, a retired clinical scientist, said she found this image ‘the most fascinating with all the patterns, the claustrophobic feel to the painting and the fact that we could not see Mme’s face. I would never have noticed all these points without Hannah’s input.’ Before too long, the ten minutes were up and we were imploring our participants, rather like the Mad Hatter, to ‘move one place on’ and the show started again.

Claude Monet, Church at Varengeville (1882)

Claude Monet, Church at Varengeville (1882)

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Edouard Vuillard, Mme Vuillard Arranging her Hair (1900)

We were overwhelmed by the number of people who participated so enthusiastically in the workshop and who took the time to give us their feedback. Ann Darton, a retired lecturer and Honorary Fellow at UoB said, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, which offered just sufficient input.  Any more and it would have been difficult to take in and certainly to retain. The postgraduate students […] were keen to share their knowledge of the areas in which they were working.’ We even had a cheeky ‘insider’ attend the workshop, Professor of Medical Oncology, Michael Cullen, who is currently doing an MA in Art History. He said, ‘I thought my fellow postgrads were all very impressive, giving confident and engaging accounts of the paintings.  I liked how they made it all seem very relaxed and informal encouraging audience contributions despite the brief time available for each presentation. I especially enjoyed Jamie’s rather infectious enthusiasm for his PhD project which added a personal aspect to his interaction with the Brueghel. I even felt encouraged to consider a PhD myself.’

‘Please run more workshops!’ was a frequent comment on our feedback forms and we are certainly tempted to do so, so watch this space! You can let us know your thoughts about themes that could be explored or artists you’d like to see featured by emailing us at or by leaving a comment here. Who knows, perhaps the next workshop will feature Professor Michael Cullen as one of our speakers!

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Find out more about the Barber Institute’s collection at

Culture Vultures


We’re all very excited on campus today: the University’s Arts and Science Festival has begun! Throughout the week there are lots of interesting events lined up for staff, students and the public to enjoy. Find out more by browsing the brochure here. We’re particularly keen to flag up our offer:

1) Dr Camilla Smith (History of Art) will be giving a talk entitled: ‘A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Art and Robots’ with Dr Nick Hawes (Computer Science), Monday 18 March, 6-7pm in the Learning Centre, LG14.

2) Us Art Historians will be running an ‘Art History Speed Workshop’ on Wednesday 20 March, 2.15pm, Barber Institute, where we will be talking about 5 key paintings in the Barber’s collection. Interested? Email to reserve a place!

3) On Friday 22nd March, 10am-4pm in Red Marley (32 Pritchatts Road, G1 on campus map) you can drop in and contribute to a time-capsule as part of an HLF-funded project, ‘Digbeth Speaks’, which some of our postgraduates are leading.

4) Throughout the week do.collaboration, co-directed by Dr Richard Clay (History of Art), are hosting a series of events, including today’s ‘multi-touch play time’ where you can play on multi-touch, multi-user equipment! (Monday 18 March 1-4pm, ERI building).


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