Samuel Palmer, A Dream in the Apennine, exhibited 1864.

CA314: The Politics of Art and Visual Culture in Romantic-Era Britain

In CA314: The Politics of Art and Visual Culture in Romantic-Era Britain, students curated a series of exhibitions of rare books, prints, and postcards, from the Special Collections division of the W.A.C Bennett Library at Simon Fraser University. The exhibitions, which took the topics discussed in the seminar in new directions, were held in March in the glass display cases on the 3rd floor of the library until it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A few of the physical exhibits, "In Pursuit of the Picturesque: Decolonising Perspectives on Land," and "Resistance: ain't I a woman? A History of Black Female Representation and the Aesthetics of the Female Body in Western Art History," have been adapted for online access as downloadable PDFs. 

Denise Oleksijczuk, April 2020

Palmer, Samuel. Sketch books. 1824. SFU Special Collections.

In Pursuit of the Picturesque

Bushra Fatima, Cindy Hua, Alex Roque, and Olivia Venini

In depicting landscapes as picturesque, Europeans of the 17th century exercised a sense of superiority key to colonisation, a trend of looking and commodification with impacts lasting well into our contemporary. With artists such as William Gilpin and Samuel Palmer we can see the readiness to edit the natural landscapes of British colonies and by the rules of British “courts of taste.” In understanding landscape as the “dreamwork of imperialism,” we can see how this travel material and the specific depictions of land in line with the picturesque made room in public opinion for an imperialist agenda of domination and subjugation. Postcards in this rising age of European tourism, as well as the handbooks like Gilpin’s that instructed ‘proper’ representation objectified the North West Coast for colonial development. This invitation of interest and investment can be seen through Canada’s history, contributing to our present day local housing crisis.

Love and beauty — Sartjee the Hottentot Venus, 1811. Print: etching and hand-coloured. SFU Special Collections.

RESISTANCE: ain’t I a woman? A History of Black Female Representation & The Aesthetics of the Female Body in Western Art History

Betty Mulat, Moroti George, and Shinaaz Johal

The goal of our exhibit was to compare the portrayal of the black female subject in contrast to white women in Western art and literature throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The exhibition comprises a variety of mediums – prints, etchings, and watercolors by various European and American artists stemming from the colonial period until the twenty-first century. The subjects range from emancipated African women, African American women, European women, and white female European mythical figures. This study investigates the complex relationship between race, gender, class and the politics of representation. RESISTANCE: ain't I a woman? provides a framework to analyze how these barriers have intersected to systematically subordinate the black woman's identity.

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