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Art Gallery of New South Wales

Lecture: On the spiritual in art by Jennifer Higgie

Where
Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery Road, Sydney NSW 2000
Domain Theatre, South Building
When

Saturday 2 March from 2pm to 3pm

Doors open 15 minutes before

Cost

Adult: $15Concession: $10

Delve into the intriguing world of Georgiana Houghton (1814–84), whose remarkable abstract art was driven by her spiritualist belief, and find out what she had in common with artist Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944) in the exploration of the spiritual in art.

Join Jennifer Higgie for this lecture, which is presented in association with the exhibitions Georgiana Houghton: Invisible Friends and Kandinsky at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

In London in the 1860s and ’70s, spiritualism – a belief system that centres around communication with the dead – boomed. In 1861, Houghton, who had trained as an artist in her youth, began conversing with spirits who directed her to paint her visions. The ensuing works included ‘spirit portraits’ of Houghton’s dead siblings, members of royalty, and the artist William Blake, and her guides included fellow artists Caravaggio and Titian along with a cast of 70 archangels. Although Houghton’s extraordinary pictures pre-empt surrealism and modernist abstraction, it’s only been recently that Houghton’s work has been discussed in the context of early 20th-century Western art.

Higgie is an Australian writer and former editor of frieze magazine who lives in London. Her recent books include The other side: a journey into women, art and the spirit world (2023) and The mirror and the palette: rebellion, revolution and resilience: 500 Years of women's self-portraits (2021). She is also the author of the novel Bedlam; author and illustrator of the children’s book There’s not one; and editor of The artist’s joke. She has been a judge of numerous prizes, including the Turner Prize, and a member of the advisory boards of Arts Council England, the British Council Venice Biennale Commission and the Contemporary Art Society. She was guest curator of the 2023 exhibition Thin Skin at Monash University Art Museum in Melbourne and is host of the National Gallery of Australia's new podcast, Artist's Artists.

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