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Professor Roger Luckhurst, ‘What is the Colour of Heaven? Women, Spiritualism and Art in the Late Nineteenth Century’



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In the world of spiritualism, women ‘mediums’ were typically considered to have privileged abilities to receive communications from the other world because of their refined nerves and sensibilities.

Some received messages by voice, but others fell into trance states and produced remarkable spirit drawings and images, while others even claimed to manifest spirits from the beyond in physical form. Some extruded ‘ectoplasm’ and sculpted spirit forms in weird acts of spiritual expression.

These tactics and techniques have long been known to have filtered into the art of the period. ‘What is the Colour of Heaven?’ looks at these kinds of representations as they appeared alongside the new sculptural work of the period.

Anna Mary Howitt, spirit drawing, c. 1858


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About the speaker

Roger Luckhurst is Geoffrey Tillotson Professor of Nineteenth Century Studies at Birkbeck College. He is the author of books on telepathy, science fiction and trauma, and most recently of Gothic: An Illustrated History (2021).

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