With the eerily pleasure of a bygone era, Gothic Beauty traces the early Victorian rituals of mourning and the pursuit of ‘pleasurable terror’ evident from the 1800's to contemporary times.

Gothic Beauty highlights the many motifs and ideas that emerged in the late eighteenth century and were cemented during the Victorian period – supernatural fixations, the thrill of terror, the mysteries of the afterlife – all of which carry through to the present day and continue to inform and inspire contemporary artists,’ said Karen Quinlan, Director of Bendigo Art Gallery.

Offering nineteenth century works which run alongside modern pieces, giving depictions of Victorian horse-drawn hearse through to the futurist video work of Jess Johnson, the exhibition has been curated by Tansy Curtin and Jessica Bridgfoot, from Bendigo Art Gallery.

Gothic Beauty features dark and evocative works by contemporary artists like Jane Burton, Bill Henson, Michael Vale and Janet Beckhouse, among others, while showing historic pre-Raphaelite paintings and objects, mourning jewellery and costumes drawn from public and private collections.

Gothic Beauty: Victorian notions of love, loss and spirituality draws inspiration from Horace Walpole’s ground-breaking novel The Castle of Otranto. When first published in 1764, this landmark book sparked a keen interest in dark, psychological narratives and heightened emotional states, mostly among middle and upper-class women escaping dull, sheltered lives.

Highlights from Gothic Beauty include:

  • A series of significant mourning objects, including an 1882 child’s mourning dress from major state collections.

  • Eighteenth and nineteenth century first edition novels by Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe and Horace Walpole from the Collection of the State Library Victoria.

  • Miniature memorial portraits and mourning brooches containing intricately woven hair of the deceased.

  • Historic works including Aubrey Beardsley; JMW Turner, Herbert Schmalz’s iconic (Collection of Bendigo Art Gallery)

  • New works by Janet Beckhouse, Michael Needham, Michael Vale and newly commissioned sound work by Australian composer Zoe Barry

By the early nineteenth century, Gothic literature had become commonplace, and the ideals, including feelings of horror and escapism and the beauty and sublime of landscape, manifested throughout art and society, and continues to endure into modern times.

See Gothic Beauty: Victorian notions of love, loss and spirituality at Bendigo Art Gallery.


Dates: 6 October to 10 February 2019

Location: Bendigo Art Gallery – 42 View Street, Bendigo

Times: 10am- 5pm daily

Bendigo Art Gallery Website