The lure of the ethnic dress: Eastern Europe in Travellers’ Gaze

Event: Public talk

Location: NEC conference hall

26 November 2019, 17:00 – 19:00


Associate Lecturer in art history at Birkbeck College, University of London

If maps conjure up political entities, travel writing contributes to the formation of cultural identities, generated in an unequal encounter between the traveller and the ‘travellee’, to use the term introduced by Mary Louise Pratt. Accordingly, Eastern Europe as a region owes its construction as much to mapmakers as to travellers, and both Wolff and Todorova drew their arguments about derogatory representation of eastern Europe and the Balkans from travel books. Both of the authors, and the following literature on travel around the region, focused exclusively on the written word, leaving the realm of travel images from Eastern Europe virtually unexplored. This paper dives into this untrodden territory, looking at illustrations. It examines a range of visual tropes which dominated travel reports from those ‘remote parts of Europe’, to quote one of the earliest visitors, the seventeenth-century British physician and scientist Edward Brown. Taking a long time span, it follows the formation of a repertory of iconic images which have shaped the perception of Eastern Europe, some of them still in operation today.
 Katarzyna MURAWSKA-MUTHESIUS teaches art history at Birkbeck College, University of London. Before her arrival in the UK in 1993, she was Curator of Italian Paintings (1981-90) and Chief Curator of The National Museum in Warsaw (1992-93). Between 2009-11, she returned to this Museum as its Deputy Director. Recipient of the Henry Moore Institute Research Fellowship, and the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, she lectured in various universities and art institutions in Europe and the US, including Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte at the Humboldt Universität Berlin: she was Guest-Professor there in 2009, and Rudolf-Arnheim Professor in 2013/14 . Her publications include: Europäische Malerei aus dem Nationalmuseum Warschau (Braunschweig 1988); Trionfo barocco (Gorizia 1990); Borders in Art: Revisiting Kunstgeographie (Warsaw 2000); National Museum in Warsaw Guide: Galleries and Study Collections (Warsaw 2001, with Dorota Folga-Januszewska); Jan Matejko’s “Battle of Grunwald”: New Approaches (Warsaw 2010); Kantor was Here: Tadeusz Kantor in Great Britain (London 2011, with Natalia Zarzecka), From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum (Farnham, Ashgate 2015, paperback Routledge 2016), co-edited with Piotr Piotrowski. Her long-standing research project examines the image of Eastern Europe in twentieth-century visual media, including cartography, caricature, travelogues and dust-jackets.


Event supported by the Getty Foundation as part of its Connecting Art Histories initiative