Susan Owens is an art historian and curator. She is the author of 'Spirit of Place: Artists, Writers and the British Landscape' (Thames & Hudson), ‘The Ghost: A Cultural History’ (Tate Publishing) and co-author of ‘Christina Rossetti: Poetry in Art’ (Yale University Press)

The artists who were obsessed with West Sussex

Blake, Constable and Ivon Hitchens all feature in Alexandra Harris’s account of a place she knows well, but it’s the more obscure figures who really shine

22 May 2024

The Victorians who were drawn to colour

The Ashmolean’s new show vividly demonstrates how strong colours became a mainstay of 19th-century art

23 Oct 2023
Wooded landscape with Herdsman Seated

The landscape that shaped Gainsborough’s view of the world

The painter’s house in Suffolk now tells a compelling story about his formative influence

3 Jan 2023

The greatness of Constable’s lateness

In the decade before his death, John Constable developed a freer hand to follow new visions – to astonishing effect

22 Nov 2021
The Frogs who ask for a King (1884; detail), Gustave Moreau.

Sting in the tale – how Gustave Moreau added bite to La Fontaine’s fables

Rarely exhibited since their creation, the intense, jewel-like watercolours of the French symbolist make for exhilarating viewing

17 Sep 2021
Sir Walter Scott (detail; c. 1844), William Allan. National Galleries Scotland

Walter Scott conjured up a playground for painters – and they fixed his fantasy of Scotland in place

The novelist may be little read today, but his fiction inspired an enduring, Romantic vision of the past

4 Aug 2021
A still from the opening sequence of Dario Argento’s horror film ‘The Stendhal Syndrome’ (1966), shot in the Uffizi Galleries in Florence.

How to cope with Stendhal syndrome when it strikes

The mysterious affliction usually only assails art buffs in Florence – but with many museums finally set to reopen, will visitors start dropping like flies?

7 May 2021

The British artists who saw a world on their doorsteps

Landscape painting went local in 19th-century Britain, writes Susan Owens, as artists celebrated the miniature marvels they found close to home

7 Feb 2021
Nekyia scene (detail of the ghosts of Agamemnon and Tiresias), 325–300 BC, Tomb of Orcus II, Tarquinia.

That’s the spirit – how the Romans imagined the dead

The various ways in which the ancient Romans depicted figures from the afterlife tell us much about contemporary preoccupations

5 Jun 2020
Photograph taken at Balmoral in 1893/94 by Charles Albert Wilson. Ethel Cadogan, Lord William Cecil and Dr Alexander Profeit re-enact a scene from Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott in which Rebecca and a page kneel over Ivanhoe. Royal Collection Trust/© HM Queen Elizabeth II 2020

Making a scene – how the Victorians brought the past to life

Recreating scenes from famous paintings has been all the rage of lockdown, but it’s the Victorians who first played make-believe in earnest

7 May 2020
In the Bezestein, El Khan Khalil, Cairo (1860), John Frederick Lewis. Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

Cairene conversions – the adopted identities of John Frederick Lewis

The Victorian painter certainly had a penchant for play-acting, but his depictions of Egypt remain something of an enigma

2 Oct 2019