The Turbulent Mind: Madness, Moods and Melancholy in the Art of the Nineteenth Century

Ghent, Museum of Fine Arts, 16-17 May 2014

In collaboration with the Research Platform XIX and the European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art

With the support of
the Research Foundation - Flanders, Flemish Art Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History (OSK), Ghent University - Faculty of Arts and Philosophy

Organising committee: Jan Dirk Baetens (Radboud University, Nijmegen), Koen Brosens (KU Leuven), Rachel Esner (University of Amsterdam), Bruno Fornari (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent), Jenny Reynaerts (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Johan De Smet (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent), Marjan Sterckx (Ghent University) and Cathérine Verleysen (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent)

Scientific committee: Werner Adriaenssens (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Maite van Dijk (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Mayken Jonkman (RKD, The Hague), Herwig Todts (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp), Francisca Vandepitte (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels), Filip Vermeylen (Erasmus University, Rotterdam) and Catherine de Zegher (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent)

On 7 May 1824, Eugène Delacroix wrote in his diary: “I do not care for reasonable painting at all. I can see that my turbulent mind needs agitation, needs to free itself, to try a hundred different things before reaching the goal whose tyrannous call everywhere torments me. (...) If I am not quivering like a snake in the hands of Pythoness, I am cold; I must recognize it and submit to it; and to do so is happiness.”

In these lines, Delacroix evoked the age-old theme of the mad artist, tormented but divinely inspired, balancing on the verge of insanity and genius. The attraction of this idea to Delacroix was hardly an isolated phenomenon. The rise of romanticism saw an exploding interest in the irrational and its potential to liberate the arts, and even the world at large, and this interest resonated throughout the rest of the nineteenth century.

On the occasion of the Théodore Géricault exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, the museum joins forces with the Research Platform XIX and the European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art to organise a two-day conference to explore the theme of madness and art in the nineteenth century, a time when artists first deliberately turned for inspiration to the mentally deviant and fully developed the idea of art as an expression of the emotional self. The conference brings together international specialists in the field and deals with both the myth of the artistic temperament and representations of madness, moods or melancholy.



Friday 16 May 2014

10:15 Registration and coffee/tea
10:45 Introduction
Catherine de Zegher, director of the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent: Word of welcome
Bruno Fornari, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent: Introduction à l’exposition
Marjan Sterckx, Ghent University: Introduction to the conference
11:15 Session 1: The Birth of the Romantic Artist
11:15 Richard Wrigley, University of Nottingham: Sanity and Sensibility in Rome
11:40 Heather Belnap Jensen, Brigham Young University: Constance Mayer, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, and the Melancholic Romantic Woman Artist
12:05 Teresa Ende, University of Bonn: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” – On Hamlet's transformation in the works of Eugène Delacroix
12:30 Discussion
13:00 Lunch

14:15 Session 2: Artists’ Self-Construction and Self Fashioning
14:15 Nina Amstutz, Yale Center for British Art: The Split Self: Phrenology, Reason, and Madness in Romantic Self-Portraiture
14:40 Erika Schneider, Framingham University: Art versus Law: The Mythology of Privation
15:05 Debra Hanson, Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar: Thomas Eakins: Constructing the Melancholic Body
15:30 Discussion
16:00 Break (coffee/tea)
16:30 Keynote lectures
16:30 Bruno Chenique, chercheur indépendant: Géricault face à la démence de Waterloo
17:00 Gregor Wedekind, Johannes Gutenberg Universität-Mainz: Les Monomanes de Géricault

17:30 Albert Alhadeff, University of Colorado Boulder: Géricault, calenture and ‘des visions fallacieuses’

18:00  Discussion

18:30  Visit to the Théodore Géricault Exhibition (private view)


Saturday 17 May 2014

9:45 Coffee/tea
10:15 Session 3: States of Distraction
10:15 Evelien Jonckheere, Ghent University: Madness by Distraction in Fin-de-Siècle French Café-Concert and its Modernist Representations
10:40 Katherine E. Manthorne, Grad Center CUNY: Mind & Madness in Post-Civil War American Art
11:05 Allison Morehead, Queen’s University, Kingston: Representing Gambling Mania
11:30 Discussion
12:00 Lunch

13:15 Session 4: Artists’ Mythologies
13:15 Ekaterini Kepetzis, University of Köln: A Fabricated Modernist: El Greco as Prototype of the Anti-Academic Artist
13:40 Roberta Crisci-Richardson, Federation University, Victoria Australia: What Happened to the Mad Degas? Suppression and Repression of the Nervous in the Reputation of Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
14:05 Joan E. Greer, University of Alberta: Vincent van Gogh and the Pathology of Artisthood
14:30 Discussion
15:00 Break (coffee/tea)
15:30 Keynote lecture
Henri Zerner, Harvard University: Géricault and the Lure of the Morbid
16:15 Closing remarks
Jan Dirk Baetens, Radboud University Nijmegen



With the support of:
FWO Vlaanderen – UG – MSK Gent – Vlaamse Kunstcollectie – Onderzoeksschool Kunstgeschiedenis

More information:
Jan Dirk Baetens, Radboud University Nijmegen: j.baetens@let.ru.nl
Cathérine Verleysen, Museum of Fine Arts Ghent: catherine.verleysen@gent.be

Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent
Hofbouwlaan 28
Ghent – Belgium

€ 40 (students € 25)
Includes coffee breaks and lunch on 16 and 17 May
Max. registrations: 100

Email to catherine.verleysen@gent.be (mentioning your institutional affiliation), and transfer of the registration fee to:
AGB Kunsten en Design – Botermarkt 1 – B-9000 Ghent – Belgium
IBAN BE11 0910 1974 1448
Mentioning name of participant and ‘The Turbulent Mind’
Confirmation of registration takes place only after receipt of the conference fee.

English / Français



Théodore Géricault, Portrait of a Kleptomaniac, ca. 1820-1824
© Museum of Fine Arts Ghent



Théodore Géricault, The Kidnapper, 1819- 20 / 1822-23

© Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield,
Massachusetts, The James Phillip Gray Collection



Théodore Géricault, Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy (The Hyena of La Salpêtrière), 1819-20 / 1822-23, Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts

© bpk, Berlin | Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon