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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Venice Public Lecture - 'As a figure in a picture stepping by magic out of its frame': Henry James's Venice, the Visual Arts, and Film Adaptation

1st March 2010, 18:15 to 19:30, Room 201, Elvet Riverside, Dr Sarah Wootton

This is the eighth Venice Public Lecture.

Henry James's writings on Venice resonate with references to the visual arts. The characters and scenes in his novel of 1902, The Wings of the Dove, are "pictured" as if in a painting by Bronzino, Turner, Titian, or Veronese, while a preoccupation with illusion and surface culminates in James's portrait of Venice as a place of beauty and ornate obfuscation. This Venetian afterglow is vividly captured in the 1997 film version of the novel where "beaux moments", as Milly Theale describes them, reflect the work of artists in the Palazzo Barbaro circle, particularly Sargent and Whistler, as well as other contemporary artists like Klimt, Alma-Tadema, and Leighton. This lecture will focus on the complex effects created by this stream of visual allusions in both James's novel and the screen adaptation.       

This lecture series focuses on the city's representation in painting, music and literature since 1800. The period is one in which Venice's trading heyday had long since vanished; a byword for lost liberty under Austrian rule, it becomes the subject of elegiac broodings on fallen greatness, but also a place in which masqued revelry, carnival, licence, and dissolutions of normal perspectives still abide as possibilities. In the period, Venice becomes a playground for the imagination, but one in which the playful and the serious, aesthetics and history, entwine.

For more information about this series please visit:

This public lecture is free and open to all to attend.

Contact m.s.o'; for more information about this event.