Call for Papers ‘Human Kind: Transforming Identity in British and Australian Portraits, 1700-1914’

September 8-11 2016, University of Melbourne and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

Papers are invited that focus on British or Australian portraits between 1700 and 1914, which can be interpreted as separate fields or as overlapping or comparative studies. The portraits may be in any public or private collection worldwide, but in particular in the National Gallery of Victoria. They may be in any medium, including painting, print, drawing, sculpture and photography.

Joseph Wright of Derby Self-portrait 1765-68
Joseph Wright of Derby, Self-Portrait, 1765-68 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne)

The conference aims to be both informed and provocative and to provide a robust forum for new and contemporary perspectives. These will include:

  • how portraits shape social values and invent new possibilities for defining ‘human kind’
  • the importance of place and provenance in the interpretation of portraits
  • how portraits form a bridge of self-interpretation between Britain and colonial society
  • the bonding role of portraits, their exchange as gifts, as agents in friendship and social cohesion, as testament to empathy and kinship
  • the interaction of portraits with other art forms and cultural media, including theatre, literature and music, photography and film
  • the role of portraits as records of social exclusion, isolation and displacement
  • issues of authorship, attribution, restoration and the multiplication and copying of portraits

Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words and a short CV to 

Deadline for proposals is Friday February 12, 2016

Keynote speakers

  • Dr Mark Hallett, Director of Studies, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
  • Dr Martin Myrone, Lead Curator Pre-1800, Tate Gallery
  • Dr Kate Retford, Senior Lecturer, Department of History of Art, Birkbeck University of London

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art ( has provided funding for graduate bursaries. Please direct your enquiries to For further information and to keep up-to-date, please visit the conference website (