Jill Burke 2021 Keynote

If you missed the recent keynote by Jill Burke on ‘Experiments in Renaissance Art History at the End of the World’ this is now available to watch online.

Jill Burke is Professor of Renaissance Visual and Material Cultures, University of Edinburgh. She is a leading international expert in Italian Renaissance Art, and a historian of the body and its visual representation, focusing on Italy and Europe 1400-1700. Her groundbreaking and politically-engaged research seeks to reformulate the understanding of the representation of the body in Italian and European early modern culture.

It seems peculiarly self-indulgent to talk about Renaissance art in 2021. With almost 150,000 excess deaths in the UK alone, spiralling poverty rates worldwide, and the environment on the brink of collapse, surely there’s more pressing concerns?  Over the last two years, I’ve been leaning into the sore point of my career choices and considering the ethical context of Renaissance art history. In 2019, I was embroiled in the so-called culture wars as part of the ‘Renaissance Nude’ exhibition team, after a fabricated story about the imposition of a gender quota was shared in the press worldwide. The next year, I wondered (aloud, in the pages of Art History) whether it was ever possible to practice European Renaissance art history in an ethical, ‘decolonised’ way.

Since then, I’ve been working on the effect of images on audiences both now and in the Renaissance:  how beauty ideals and ways to achieve them can be related to the fetishization of whiteness, gender control and social stratification; on how scenes of sexual violence were understood, and how they are presented today.  I’ll investigate in this lecture how the Italian Renaissance could be understood as the point of departure for European visual conquest, the headwater of an art historical practice that decides what should and what should not count as ‘art’, and who should be counted as an ‘artist’ worthy of canonisation. I’ll consider recent scholarship that addresses these questions, and suggest a few ideas about where we can go next.

Watch online. Approx 60 mins

This keynote was part of the 2021 online Annual Conference which took place in April 2021.