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Laurence Shafe completes PhD

18 January 2013

Laurence Shafe completes PhD

The History of Art department congratulates Laurence Shafe on the completion of his PhD. His thesis, entitled Darwin and Beauty: 1859-1882 was supervised by Prof. Liz Prettejohn and Dr Dorothy Rowe and was examined by Professor David Amigoni (Keele University) and Dr Grace Brockington (Bristol).

'Between 1859 and 1882 Charles Darwin published his theory of sexual selection which proposed beauty as an evolved characteristic, and in art, Aestheticism became the leading movement in England. The subsequent scientific and artistic debates about evolution and beauty unanchored many preconceptions about God, gender roles, progress and the absolute nature of knowledge. For example, the ambiguous wolf or bear skin in Whistler's Symphony in White No. 1 suggests the fluidity of the concept of species and reminds us that in Origin of Species (1859) Darwin wrote "I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale."'

(Laurence Shafe)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White No 1: The White Girl, 1862

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