March 14, 2023

Phoebe Anna Traquair, Dante, and William Blake

“All the Unapproachable Beauty in Nature's Details”

Event Series: A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment

Showing the Phoebe Anna Traquair, Dante, and William Blake Video

Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852-1936) was one of the leading contributors to the British arts and crafts movement, and she was one of the first three women elected to the Royal Scottish Academy. Born in Dublin, she was inspired by childhood visits to the medieval manuscripts housed at Trinity College, particularly the Book of Kells, to pursue a career in art. After marrying the Scottish paleontologist Ramsay Heatley Traquair, she moved to Edinburgh where she illustrated his papers for the next 30 years, with a Ruskinian attention to what she called in a letter “all the unapproachable beauty in nature's details.” She embarked on a career that focused on the illustration of literary texts, mural painting, enamels, and embroideries. In this talk, Clare Broome Saunders will explore Traquair's celebration of the natural world—focusing on her use of public art commissions to reconnect society with the beauties of the environment—and the ways in which inspiration from medieval texts and art (including Dante’s Divine Comedy), and William Blake's medievalism, offered her the imaginative means to express this artistic vision.

Michael Scott, director of the Future of the Humanities Project, will provide opening and closing remarks, and Kathryn Temple, a Future of the Humanities Project senior fellow, will moderate a Q&A session following the presentation.

This event is sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project; the Georgetown Humanities Initiative; the Georgetown Master's Program in the Engaged and Public HumanitiesCampion Hall, Oxford; and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, Oxford). It is part of the one-year-long series A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Stephencdickson.


Dr. Clare Broome Saunders

Dr. Clare Broome Saunders

Dr. Clare Broome Saunders is senior tutor and a fellow of Blackfriars Hall, and a member of the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford. Her research interests include nineteenth-century women's poetry, uses of history, and women travel writers in Europe, as reflected in her books Louisa Stuart Costello: A Nineteenth Century Writing Life (2015) and Women, Travel Writing, and Truth (2014), and in her recent publications on medievalism and politics.

Kathryn Temple

Kathryn Temple

Kathryn Temple (moderator) is a professor in the Department of English at Georgetown University where she has taught since 1994. She specializes in the study of law and the humanities. Among her publications are Loving Justice: Legal Emotions in William Blackstone’s England (2019) and the co-edited Research Handbook on Law and Emotions (2021). Her humanities outreach activities include work with military veterans and the incarcerated.