Claudia Tobin

Claudia Tobin

Wallace Fellow
'Inhaling Colour': Chromatic Experience and the Modern Renaissance
Portrait photo of Claudia Tobin


Claudia Tobin is a writer, lecturer, and curator specializing in the intersections between modern and contemporary literature and the visual arts. She is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Intellectual Forum, Jesus College Cambridge and a Visiting Fellow at UCL Institute of Advanced Studies. Her recent publications include a monograph titled Modernism and Still Life: Artists, Writers, Dancers(Edinburgh University Press, 2020) and she is co-editor of Ways of Drawing: Artists' Perspectives and Practices (Thames & Hudson, 2019). In Florence, Claudia will develop her current book project on colour and the imagination in modern literature and visual culture. 

Project Summary

The late- nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries witnessed a ‘rediscovery’ of colour, what Matisse called the ‘rehabilitation of the role of colour, and the restitution of its emotive power’ in the work of artists from Delacroix to Cézanne and Matisse himself. This project addresses the impact of Renaissance art in framing the meanings and experience of colour in late nineteenth and early twentieth century writing and visual culture. The first strand of inquiry centers on the writings of Vernon Lee (1856–1935), who lived and worked in Florence for much of her life and who recorded powerful physiological responses to colour in her encounters with Italian Renaissance painting. This project seeks to situate Lee’s writings on aesthetics in the long debate in art history over the relationship between colore and disegno in which colour is conventionally gendered as feminine, and associated with the emotional and unstable elements in art. The second part of the inquiry examines the Impressionist exhibition at the Florence Lyceum Club in 1910 as a crucial moment in the reception of modern art in Lee's circle. In particular, the project aims to recover the reception of Cézanne through archival research on early collectors of the painter who lived in Florence. More broadly, it aims to shed light on the ways in which impressionist and post-impressionist art was contested and promoted as a modern Renaissance.