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Book Event: New Books on 19th-Century Interiors

  • 24 Feb 2023
  • 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
  • Online (Zoom)

Registration is closed

A book event co-organized by the William Morris Society in the United States and the Historic Interiors Affiliate Group of the Society of Architectural Historians


Friday, February 24, 1 pm EST

(10 am PST, 11 am MST, 12 noon CST, 6:00 pm GMT)


The 90-minute event will begin with two short 15-minute presentations in which the authors will introduce their books and reflect on their methods and approaches to the field. Members of HIG and WMS-US will then moderate a discussion and invite questions from the audience.

Andrea Wolk Rager, The Radical Vision of Edward Burne-Jones (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, distributed by Yale University Press, 2022)

The first scholarly monograph solely devoted to the artist since 1973, this book re-centers Burne-Jones’s practice in the decorative arts, demonstrating that he consistently questioned the boundaries of artistic media, in keeping with wider debates over the role of the arts in the nineteenth century. It illuminates how Burne-Jones’s art functioned not as a retreat from modernity, but as a vehicle for awakening, offering a protest against imperial aggression, capitalist economic inequality, and environmental destruction in the wake of the industrial revolution in nineteenth-century Britain. 


John Holmes, Temple of Science: The Pre-Raphaelites and Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Bodleian Library and Oxford University Museum of Natural History, 2020)

In the 1850s, some of England’s most eminent scientists worked with John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites to design and decorate a new museum that was to be Oxford University’s first science faculty. Temple of Science sets out the history of the campaign to build the museum before taking the reader on a tour of the art of the museum itself. It looks at the façade and the central court, with their beautiful natural history carvings and marble columns illustrating geological strata, and at the pantheon of scientists. Together they form the world’s finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite sculpture.


Both books address ideas about the interior as a site for public and private artistic commissions and both discuss the Pre-Raphaelites, who were famously committed to the decorative arts and to bringing art into everyday life through the decoration of interiors. The session will be of interest to anyone who works within the broad, interdisciplinary fields of interiors, museum history, and/or nineteenth-century art.

Attendance is free and open to the public. Please register in advance to receive the Zoom link.


Andrea Wolk Rager is the Jesse Hauk Shera Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her PhD from Yale University and held a Postdoctoral Research Associate position at the Yale Center for British Art. In 2012, she served as co-curator with Angus Trumble for the exhibition Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, and co-edited the accompanying catalogue.

John Holmes is Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Birmingham and an Honorary Associate of Oxford University Museum of Natural History. His books include Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution (Edinburgh UP, 2009) and The Pre-Raphaelites and Science (Yale UP, 2018). He co-ordinates Symbiosis, a network of universities and museums researching and promoting the use of the arts in natural history collections, and is currently developing a project on John Ruskin and environmental justice in collaboration with the Guild of St George and the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research.

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