Dr Alexandra Loske: Squaring the colour circle: Pioneering women in colour literature and theory

  • 5.15pm

  • Hunter Building, Hunter Lecture Theatre (017)
    74 Lauriston Place
    EH3 9DF

Led by Dr Alexandra Loske (University of Sussex)

We associate many milestones in colour history with men, for example Isaac Newton, Moses Harris, George Field, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Owen Jones, Michel-Eugène Chevreul, Johannes Itten, Kandinsky and many others. Examples of women writing on the subject of colour are rare before the 20th century. In this seminar Alexandra Loske will introduce some women who wrote and published about colour and colour theory in the 19th and early 20th century, and investigate what motivated them and how they claimed their place in the colour world. The talk will focus particularly on how they illustrated their works, including the surprisingly abstract colour blots of British flower painter Mary Gartside (1805) and the highly inventive colour grids of New York art teacher Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (1901). The talk will finish with early 20th century artist and writer Carry van Biema (1881-1942), whose life and work were brutally extinguished by the Nazis during WW2.


Dr Alexandra Loske is an art historian, writer and curator with a particular interest in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century European art and architecture. Born and brought up in Germany, she read linguistics and English at Humboldt University Berlin, and relocated to England in 1997. She has been working at the University of Sussex since 1999, where she teaches in the department of Art History and completed her PhD in 2014. The subject of her doctoral thesis was the use of colour and the application of colour theory in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. Since 2015 Alexandra has been the curator of the Royal Pavilion.

In 2014 she curated the exhibition Regency Colour and Beyond 1785 – 1845 at the Royal Pavilion.  She has been involved with the exhibition Turner et la Couleur in Aix-en-Provence and the Turner Contemporary in Margate (2016/17) and will be contributing to an upcoming exhibition on colour at Compton Verney.

Alexandra has lectured and published widely on the history of colour literature in general, on aspects of the interior decoration of the Royal Pavilion and in Spring 2019 published Colour – A Visual History (Ilex/Tate/Smithsonian Institute), which has been translated into German, French and Mandarin. For 2019/20 she is preparing contributions to a monograph on George IV as a patron of the arts (Royal Collection Trust) and is editing a volume on colour in the 19th century for The Cultural History of Colour, to be published by Bloomsbury.

Part of the 2019/20 History of Art Research Seminar Series