Strange Beauty

This event was held from 11 April 2014 to 12 April 2014

Friday 11 and Saturday 12 April 2014, 10.30am–5pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre

Speakers include Professor Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Professor Debra Silverman, Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein, Dr Inga Rossi-Schrimpf, Professor Juliet Simpson

Admission charge

Online sales for this event are closed. Tickets will be available for sale outside the Sainsbury Wing Theatre before the event (cash only)

Tickets for both days: £75/£55 concessions (£20 students with valid student ID)

Tickets for Day One: £40/£30 concessions (£10 students with valid student ID)

Tickets for Day Two: £40/£30 concessions (£10 students with valid student ID)

How did the British respond to Northern European Renaissance art – and especially the art of Germany – in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

At this conference you will hear from scholars in art history, history, curation, material culture, comparative literature and politics, to address a neglected body of histories and visual and cultural reception.

The conference will draw together research relating to a new network of art-historical, historical and literary scholarship investigating fin-de-siècle constructions of the Northern European artist as 'primitive', with a specific focus on responses to German art and visual culture, and on ideas of 'German-ness'.

The conference ties in with the current exhibition 'Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance'.

Programme: Day One, Friday 11 April 2014

Please note that registration will take place before 10.30am, so please arrive early. The conference will start promptly at 10.30am


Welcome: Dr Susan Foister (Deputy Director, The National Gallery, Co-Curator of 'Strange Beauty'); Professor Juliet Simpson (Buckinghamshire New University/Wolfson College, Oxford)

Panel 1: 'Making Modern Renaissances: Dürer and Cranach in the Nineteenth Century'

Professor Jeffrey Chipps Smith (University of Texas): 'Dürer on the Museum: the Rise of the Cult of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century'

Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein (University of York, Co-Curator of 'Strange Beauty'): '"The picture does not please me": Cranach’s critical fortunes in Britain'

Chair: Dr Stephanie Buck (The Courtauld Gallery, London)




Break (refreshments provided)


Panel 2: 'Pre-Raphaelites and ‘Primitive’ Moderns'

Professor Colin Cruise (University of Aberystwyth): 'Opening and Closing Perspectives: D.G. Rossetti and the Northern 'Primitives''

Dr Jan-Dirk Baetens (Nijmegen University, Netherlands): 'The Modernity of the Past: Henry Leys’s Pre-Rubenism'

Chair: TBC                                                                            




Lunch (not provided)


Panel 3: 'Figures of Life and Death: Gothicism, Rootedness and the Germanic in Belgian and Finnish Symbolism'

Dr Inga Rossi-Scrimpf (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels): 'Der Rembranddeutsche: Georges Minne, Gothicism and Flemish and German Rootedness'  

Dr Marja Lahelma (University of Helsinki): 'Hugo Simberg and Hans Holbein: Individuality, Portraiture, and Images of Death'

Chair: Professor Patrick McGuinness (University of Oxford)




Break (refreshments provided)


Panel 4: 'German Moods: Matthias Grünewald at the Fin-de-siècle'  

Professor Juliet Simpson: 'Savage, Spirituality and German Revivals – the many moods of Matthias Grünewald at the fin-de-siècle'

Dr Dorothy Price (University of Bristol): 'Death and the Maiden – the re-invention of a Northern Renaissance motif'

Chair: TBC                                                      



Programme: Day Two, Saturday 12 April 2014

Please note that registration will take place before 10.15am, so please arrive early. The conference will start promptly at 10.15am


Panel 5: The Art and Exhibition of Nation-Building: Cults of 'Primitive' Art

Professor Elizabeth Emery (Montclair State University, NJ): 'The Contested Primitifs Cult at the Fin-de-siècle: From Aesthetic Purity to National Commerce'

Dr Clément Dessy (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels): 'Exporting “Primitive” Belgian Arts: A Challenge for Belgian Symbolism in Britain'

Professor Laura Morowitz (Wagner College, New York): 'The 'Exposition des Primitifs Français' (1904) and 'Les Primitifs' allemands (1910): Franco-British Discourse on the 'Primitives', 1900-1910'

Chair: Dr Albert Godycki, The National Gallery




Break (refreshments provided)


Panel 6: 'Myth-Making and Northern Cosmopolitans: Other Renaissances in German Music and Literature'

Professor Roger Allen (University of Oxford): 'Wagner’s Musical 'Primitives': Renaissance Italy from Bayreuth'

Professor Robert Vilain (University of Bristol): 'German Literary “Primitives”: Yvan Goll and Expressionism'



Lunch (not provided)


Panel 7: 'Avant-Gardes and Germanic Rhythms: Reinventing the Northern Renaissance in early 20th Century Modernism'

Dr Andrea Bontea (University of Sussex): ‘Renaissance Masks and Ugliness – Towards a New Language of Surface in the Art of Ensor and Klee’

Dr Tessel Bauduin (University of Amsterdam/Radboud University, Netherlands): 'The Modernity/Anti-modernity of Bosch: Early Renaissance Netherlandish art in Surrealism'

3.30–3.45pm Discussion

Break (refreshments provided)


Speakers' Plenary

Led by Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein, Professor Juliet Simpson and Dr Susan Foister

5pm Conference close  



This Conference has been organised by Professor Juliet Simpson (Buckinghamshire New University/Wolfson College, Oxford) in collaboration with Dr Susan Foister (The National Gallery) and Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein (University of York).

For programme information contact: Professor Juliet Simpson, Email:, or telephone: +44 (0)1494 605077

Image above: detail from Lucas Cranach the Elder, 'Cupid complaining to Venus', about 1525