Association of Art Historians Annual Conference: ‘Conception: Reception’


Date: March 31 – April 2, 2005
Venue: University of Bristol, UK

The following sessions are part of ‘Conception: Reception’, the Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians (AAH), University of Bristol.


Narrative was central to much 19th-century art and art reception. Artists told stories in their pictures; viewers told their own stories in response to visual cues; critics debated what were the best modes of telling a story via an image; and 20th-century art historians went on to denigrate the whole enterprise as ‘theatrical’ and ‘anecdotal’. This session revisits the narrative richness of 19th-century art and seeks to open out the debate beyond the familiar polarities of academic vs avantgarde, literary vs art-pour-l’art, France vs rest-of-world.


The current renewed academic interest in and focus on surrealism has revealed new aspects of the movement. From the centralisation of previously marginalized figures to the fruitful application of methodological enquiry, recent academic research has contributed much to our understanding of surrealism. However, these attempts to rethink and reconceptualise it have repeatedly neglected the surrealist movement in Belgium. While discussions of Belgian surrealism can be found in French criticism in the 1970s, there has been little development since, especially in the U. S. and Britain. It is symptomatic of this marginalisation that whilst writings on and by French surrealists have been translated, there are few translations of works by and about Belgian surrealists. Yet, any understanding of surrealism is incomplete without taking into account the Belgian context. This session proposes therefore to offer focused and rigorous discussions of Belgian surrealism.