Sick girls in European visual art, literature, medical science and popular culture in the 19th century

Sick girls in European visual art, literature, medical science and popular culture in the 19th century

International Conference, 7-8 November 2019

Venue: Aarhus University, Studenterhusfonden, Meeting room 1, Fredrik Nielsens Vej, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark


The motif “sick girl” was dealt with by artists all the way back to the 17th century where especially the Dutch painters made a lot of works with the subject sick girl/young woman, but it was only at the end of the 19th century that this motif became popular among European artists. In these works the artists created an individual picture of illness, which contrasted with the focus on the body as an anatomical research object and the body seen below the skin as in microbiology. The artists literally gave the state of being sick a face at time when there were several pioneering discoveries and inventions in the field of medicine, inventions that focused more on the inside of the body than the outside.


This transdisciplinary international conference seeks to explore how illness in the shape of the images of the sick girls in the 19th century was addressed in visual art, literature, science, and popular culture. In relation to how the sick girl is depicted one of the conference aims  is to look at connections and differences between visual art, literature, medical science and popular culture.


Confirmed speakers

  • Professor Gemma Blackshaw, Senior Tutor (Research), Critical & Historical Studies; Liaison for School of Arts & Humanities, Royal College of Art, London

  • Jens Lohfort Jørgensen, Associate professor, Department of Culture and Global Studies, The Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University

  • Dr. Barbara Larson, Professor and Chair, Art Department, University of West Florida

  • Professor Hilary Marland, Principal Investigator on a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award, University of Warwick, Centre for the History of Medicine

  • Allison Morehead, Associate Professor of Art History and Cultural Studies, Department of Art History & Art Conservation, Cultural Studies, Queen’s University 


The conference is organised by postdoc Mette Bøgh Jensen (Aarhus University, Art Museums of Skagen, The Hirschsprung Collection)



The conference is supported by

The research program
’Uses of the Past’



The conference is supported by