Lily Foster - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Lily Foster

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Lily Foster

PhD student

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Thesis: ‘Ends of Intimisme: The Urban Interior and the First World War in the Paintings of Harold Gilman and Edouard Vuillard, 1910–19′

Supervised by Prof. Christopher Green and Prof. Caroline Arscott

Funded by Courtauld scholarship

Writing in The Studio in 1930, the critic Louis Fergusson described Harold Gilman as ‘a kind of Vuillard of London’. Vuillard’s and Gilman’s shared proclivity to paint female figures in domestic interiors has been taken to exemplify the soothing, subjectivity-bound, bourgeois models of painting, encapsulated in the term ‘intimiste’, against which early-twentieth-century avant-garde artists such as the Futurists defined themselves. Focusing on depictions of the artists’ own living spaces in London and Paris, my dissertation aims to reconfigure these accounts by inspecting Gilman’s and Vuillard’s paintings in relation to crucial shifts in urban living conditions at the time, notably the proliferation of and emerging public debate about temporary working-class housing, the advent of electricity in private homes, and the massive industrial outlays of the First World War. The analysis will draw on Vuillard’s and Gilman’s contemporary reception in journals, newspapers and magazines; popular discourses about home design, fashion, and the industrial technologies then becoming fixtures of public and private life; and writings by Vuillard, Gilman and contemporaries considered formative to their oeuvres and to the wider issues at stake, particularly Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and C.R.W. Nevinson. The study will show that Vuillard’s and Gilman’s interiors expose, and to an extent, reconcile essential discrepancies between living conditions in Paris and London during the 1910s and the critical and artistic discourses surrounding their artistic practices. In making this claim, the dissertation will seek to demonstrate that a pictorial shift widely considered distinctive to avant-garde art practice in the 1910s – the embrace of visual effects considered specifically technological or mechanical – occurred across a broad range of artists and discourses, extending to the interiors of Gilman and Vuillard and to popular commentaries on the changing status of the modern, middle-class home.


  • MA with Distinction at the Courtauld Institute of Art, 2012
  • BA in Art History at Harvard College, summa cum laude, 2006


  • Teaching Assistant for ‘Frameworks for Interpretation’, an overview of art-historical methodologies at the Courtauld, in autumn 2013
  • Seminars on The Camden Town Group for Lisa Tickner’s MA course, ‘Modernism in Britain, 1890-1970’, in 2012 and 2013


Research interests

  • The relationship between modern technology and treatments of domestic space in early-twentieth-century painting, popular media, and art criticism
  • The status of the ‘painting of modern life’ in Britain and France during the 1910s
  • Histories and theories of color and artists’ pigments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Conference papers

  • ‘Artificial Brightness in the Works of Harold Gilman and Edouard Vuillard’, given at the Research Forum at the Courtauld in February 2014.
  • ‘“Modern Bright Blues”: Bold Color and Aesthetics of Artificiality in the Works of Harold Gilman and Edouard Vuillard’, given as part of a seminar on the history and science of artists’ pigments at the Yale Center for British Art in June 2013.
  • ‘La Fugacité et la vie quotidienne dans les peintures d’Edouard Vuillard et Harold Gilman’, given at the Festival de l’histoire de l’art at Fontainebleau in May 2013.

Recent publications

  • ‘“Not to Trouble About People”: Gwen John’s Studies in the Church at Meudon’. Catalogue essay in Andrea Buettner: Hidden Marriages. Cardiff: National Museum of Wales, 2014.

Other academic activities

  • Member of the editorial board of immediations, the Courtauld’s postgraduate research journal
  • Member of the Edwardian Culture Network

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