Human Kind: conference and contact information

Conference venues

First Floor, North Wing
Arts West (Building 148)
The University of Melbourne
Parkville VIC 3010

National Gallery of Victoria (International)
Clemenger Theatre
180 St Kilda Road
Melbourne VIC 3006

(Enter via Mouse Hole / side entrance beside the Arts Centre)

The University of Melbourne and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

September 8-11, 2016

Inspired by the outstanding collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, this interdisciplinary conference will be the largest gathering of international and Australian scholars to focus on portraits. It will provide a unique opportunity to explore both British and Australian portraits through a dynamic interchange between academics and curators.

The conference will focus on British or Australian portraits between 1700 and 1914, both as separate fields and as overlapping or comparative studies. The portraits under discussion derive from a rich variety of international collections, but with a particular focus on the portraits of the National Gallery of Victoria.

The conference aims to be both informed and provocative and to provide a robust forum for new and contemporary perspectives.

These will include:

  • How portraits shape social values and invent new possibilities for defining 'human kind'
  • The importance of place and provenance in the interpretation of portraits
  • How portraits form a bridge of self-interpretation between Britain and colonial society
  • The bonding role of portraits, their exchange as gifts, as agents in friendship and social cohesion, as testament to empathy and kinship
  • The interaction of portraits with other art forms and cultural media, including theatre, literature and music, photography and film
  • The role of portraits as records of social exclusion, isolation and displacement
  • Issues of authorship, attribution, restoration and the multiplication and copying of portraits

The call-for-papers closed on March 31 2016.


For further information, please contact the convenors at

Joseph Wright of Derby Self-portrait 1765-68

Joseph Wright of Derby
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Alina Cade in memory of her husband Joseph Wright Cade, 2009