Gothic Beauty: Victorian notions of love, loss and spirituality

Bendigo Art Gallery Gothic BeautyFrom a nineteenth century Victorian horse-drawn hearse, to the pulsating futurist video work of Jess Johnson, Gothic Beauty: Victorian notions of love, loss and spirituality traces early Victorian rituals of mourning and the pursuit of ‘pleasurable terror’ evident from the 1800s to contemporary times.

The exhibition, curated by Tansy Curtin and Jessica Bridgfoot and exclusive to Bendigo Art Gallery, includes dark and evocative works by contemporary artists Jane Burton, Bill Henson, Michael Vale and Janet Beckhouse, amongst others; alongside historic Pre Raphaelite paintings and objects, mourning jewellery and costumes drawn from public and private collections.

Gothic Beauty draws inspiration from Horace Walpole’s groundbreaking novel The Castle of Otranto. When first published in 1764, this landmark book sparked a keen interest in dark, psychological narratives and heightened emotional states, mostly amongst middle and upper-class women escaping dull, sheltered lives.

By the early nineteenth century, Gothic literature had become commonplace, and the ideals, including feelings of horror and escapism and the beauty and sublime of landscape, manifested throughout art and society and continue to endure into modern times.

Gothic Beauty draws on works from Bendigo Art Gallery’s historic and contemporary collections, as well as key loans and new works from contemporary artists who maintain a fascination with the Gothic.

Highlights of the exhibition include: a series of significant mourning objects, including an 1882 child’s mourning dress from major state collections and a late 19thC horse-drawn Hearse. Eighteenth and nineteenth century first edition novels by Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe and Horace Walpole from the Collection of the State Library Victoria.

Miniature memorial portraits and mourning brooches containing intricately woven hair of the deceased and a selection of historic works including Aubrey Beardsley; JMW Turner, Herbert Schmalz’s iconic Too Late (Collection of Bendigo Art Gallery).

“Gothic Beauty will highlight the many motifs and ideas that emerged in the late eighteenth century and were cemented during the Victorian period,” said Karen Quinlan, Director Bendigo Art Gallery. “Supernatural fixations, the thrill of terror, the mysteries of the afterlife – all of which carry through to the present day and continue to inform and inspire contemporary artists.”

“We are delighted to be able to draw on our own, and the State’s finest collections – including the National Gallery of Victoria, State Library Victoria and Museums Victoria – to bring this evocative exhibition to life,” she added.

Gothic Beauty: Victorian notions of love, loss and spirituality
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo
Exhibition continues to 10 February 2019
Free admission

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Gothic Beauty: Victorian notions of love, loss and spirituality (installation view) – courtesy of Bendigo Art Gallery