Tag Archives: Georgina Houghton

UCL/BPS Talk June 14th: “Mediumistic Art and the Problems of Interpretation”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in the Summer term. On Tuesday June 14th Marco Pasi will be speaking on “Mediumistic art and the problems of interpretation: The case of Georgina Houghton (1814–1884).” Full details, including abstract, follow below.

Date: Tuesday 14 June 2016
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University
College London
Speaker: Dr Marco Pasi (University of Amsterdam)
Seminar title: Mediumistic art and the problems of interpretation: The case of Georgina Houghton (1814–1884)

In this talk, I take up the work of the British mediumistic artist Georgiana Houghton (1814–1884), whose works feature in a new exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery. Houghton became interested in spiritualism in the early 1860s and began to practise as a medium. A trained artist, she produced a series of drawings that she claimed were done under the direct influence of spiritual entities. These works were almost exclusively non-figurative and seem to anticipate abstraction by at least 40 years. Her story presents some similarities with the the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), who also began to develop an abstract style of painting as a medium under the perceived guidance of spiritual entities, a few years before Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. How should we understand Georgiana Houghton’s (and Hilma af Klint’s) art? The context in which mediumistic art was first appreciated was psychical research, especially in the works of F.W.H. Myers. Myers presented a psychological approach to the problem of artistic genius, referring to automatic drawing as an example of the ‘subliminal uprush’. For Myers, artistic genius manifested itself when an artist was able to combine the inspiration coming from the ‘subliminal uprush’ with their ‘supraliminal stream of thought’. Myers’s theories were significant for psychologists and artists who tried to make sense of the phenomenon of mediumistic art throughout the 20th century.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London

Time: 6-7:30pm

Directions: From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place.  After fifty metres, you wind Foser Court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right.  The common room is straight ahead.

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