The City ‘Anchored in the Deep Ocean’: Dickens, Turner and Venice

Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 16 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JA. And via Zoom link which will be circulated to Members.

The 44th Kurt Pantzer Memorial Lecture by Professor Malcolm Andrews.

The lecture argues for affinities between Dickens’s prose evocation of Venice and Turner’s oils and watercolours of the city. Dickens, travelling in Italy in 1844, confided in a letter to a friend ‘I never saw the thing before that I should be afraid to describe. But to tell what Venice is, I feel to be an impossibility.’ Accordingly, when he came to write up his Italian travels in his book Pictures from Italy (1846), he gave a separate chapter to Venice, titled ‘An Italian Dream’. This chapter is a radical stylistic rupture from the broadly conventional travel narrative in the rest of the book. In that same letter Dickens invoked the Venetian paintings of Canaletto, Stanfield and Turner. The lecture explores some of the ways in which Dickens’s writing, attempting to represent the ‘indescribable’, might be seen to resemble Turner’s experimental melting of forms when he portrays Venetian scenes.

Malcolm Andrews is Emeritus Professor of Victorian and Visual Studies University of Kent. A past president of the Dickens Society of America and for 30 years editor of The Dickensian, he has published widely in the field of landscape aesthetics and visual arts. His publications include Landscape and Western Art, 1999 in the New Oxford History of Art series and A Sweet View: The Making of an English Idyll, 2021, Reaktion Books.

6 for 6.30 p.m. This event is free of charge. Wine will be served after the lecture.

Turner Society members who apply by 31 March 2024 have priority booking. After that date the lecture will be advertised on the Paul Mellon Centre website, and Dickens Fellowship members and others will also be invited to attend. All bookings from 1 April onwards will need to be made directly to the Centre and will be treated on a first-come, first-served basis.

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