Natalie Hume - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Natalie Hume

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Natalie Hume

PhD student

The Graphic Representation of America in Britain, 1865–1880

Supervised by Prof. Caroline Arscott

In 1866, immediately after the end of the American Civil War, the first functional transatlantic telegraph cable was laid, facilitating close trade and diplomacy between Britain and the United States. Just three years later, the railway spanning the United States was completed, encouraging settlers to occupy land in the western interior and exacerbating relations with members of indigenous nations, who, particularly since the 1830 Removal Act, had suffered increasing persecution and forced relinquishment of their territories. The British watched this process of growth and expansion with interest, at a moment when their own empire was growing, increasingly controlled and consolidated using a global telegraphic network. Contemporaneous with this new form of rapid and but abbreviated verbal communication, images were proliferating and reaching new audiences via the explosion of illustrated journalism. Reproductive technology that allowed pictures to be printed quickly and economically alongside text, relying overwhelmingly until the 1880s on various wood-engraving processes, encouraged the development of a new, semi-ephemeral visual culture based on the illustration of recent events and the articulation of shared interests.

This thesis examines illustrations produced for the British press by British artists travelling through America. It investigates their encounters with landscape, institutions and individuals, and considers the significance of these experiences in the context of various British national identities and positions, with particular attention to the expressive possibilities produced by distance and analogy. It also reflects on the way ideas were encoded or embedded into work that was liable to be altered radically during the publishing process, and examines the place of illustration in the context of audience reception, particularly in relation to changing art markets and aesthetics. The study will include art by Valentine Walter Bromley (1848–1877) and Arthur Boyd Houghton (1836–1875) among others.

This thesis is undertaken as part of Scrambled Messages – the Telegraphic Imaginary 1857–1900, an intercollegiate research project with Kings College London and the Institute of Making, UCL.


  • MA Methodology Discussion Group, autumn term 2014

Research interests

  • Art in relation to cultural forms, including literature and science
  • Identity and nationality, colonialism and empire
  • Modernity and modernism
  • American studies
  • Phenomenology and psychoanalysis
  • Art production and reproduction

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