Sick girls in European visual art, literature, medical science and popular culture in the 19th century

The motif “sick girl” was dealt with by artists all the way back to the 17th century where especially the Dutch painters made a lot of works with the subject sick girl/young woman, but it was only at the end of the 19th century that this motif became popular among Euro-pean artists. In these works the artists created an individual picture of illness, which con-trasted with the focus on the body as an anatomical research object and the body seen
below the skin as in microbiology. The artists literally gave the state of being sick a face at time when there were several pioneering discoveries and inventions in the field of medi-cine, inventions that focused more on the inside of the body than the outside.

Some of the most iconic and renowned works of sick girls are made by Nordic artists like Christian Krohg, Edvard Munch, and Helene Schjerfbeck works that place the sick girls in
interiors which are more or less infected by the illness of the young girl. However, the mo-tif “sick girl” is seen all over Europe in the 19th century and the works of the sick girls were made during a period in which there was a huge focus on illness and various diseases. The motifs of the sick girls in visual art reappear in the 1800s at the same time as medical
science experiences a huge progress, a discrepancy that can only partly be explained by the fact that despite medical progress a lot of people still died from trivial diseases.

This transdisciplinary international conference seeks to explore how illness in the shape of the images of the sick girls in the 19th century was addressed in visual art, literature, sci-ence, and popular culture. In relation to how the sick girl is depicted one of the conference aims is to look at connections and differences between visual art, literature, medical
science and popular culture.

The 2-day conference takes place at Aarhus University November 7 & 8. Please visit website to see the CFP. Deadline June 15.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Dr. Gemma Blackshaw, Professor, Art history, School of Humanities and Performing Arts, Plymouth University.

Jens Lohfort Jørgensen, Associate professor, Department of Culture and Global Studies, The Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University.

Dr. Barbara Larson, Associate professor, University of West Florida, Department of Art

Hilary Marland, Principal Investigator on a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award, University of Warwick, Centre for the History of Medicine.

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