MA in the History of Art

Flesh and Fabric: The Victorian and Edwardian Interior

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Course Description

During the Victorian and Edwardian period interest in the domestic interior reached unprecedented levels of mania. The Victorian and Edwardian subject was imbedded, formed by and expressed through their home. Beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851 and concluding with Edward VII’s death in 1910, this course will re-evaluate the interrelationship between people, their possessions and the domestic interior. During this period the rapid growth in the population, the increase in new transport networks, medical and scientific innovations, mass manufacture, the emergence of the suburbs, developments in psychology, political upheavals, Darwinism, and the invention of photography and film, shifted conceptions of temporality, corporeality, and subjectivity. Against this backdrop, the domestic interior emerged as a revolutionary and dynamic space in which identity and ideology were constructed.

This course will examine the extent that domestic interiors set the terms, rather than merely responding to developments, of society, the relationship between objects and subjectivity, the connection between domestic and bodily interiors, the transformation from a Victorian to an Edwardian sensibility, the relationship between three-dimensional space and two-dimensional representation, and the significance of furniture.

Particular attention will be paid to artists who revolutionised the construction, function and representation of the domestic interior, including William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Kate Greenaway, Frederick Leighton, Evelyn De Morgan, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Walter Crane, John Singer Sargent and Gwen John.

The course will be structured chronologically and built according to the blueprint of a house. In the bedroom, for example, we examine the connection between metal-framed beds, Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1852-3), the 1884 International Health Exhibition, corsetry, pleasure and sex in Walter Sickert, La Hollandaise, (1906), and deathbed portraiture.

During this course you will have access to houses and collections across London, including William Morris’ Red House (1860), Frederick Leighton’s, Leighton House (1866), Linley Sambourne’s residence, 18 Stafford Terrace, Tate Britain, Geffrye Museum, Watts Gallery, Guildhall Art Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, the British Museum Prints and Drawings room, and the furniture collection at the V&A. 

Language and other requirements

Standard entry requirements.