Colour Revolution: Victorian Art, Fashion and Design

Changing ideas, changing colours.

An exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Professor Charlotte Ribeyrol (Sorbonne University) is the co-curator of the "Color Revolution" exhibition opening 21st September at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

This show is the major outcome of the ERC project Chromotope which sheds new light on 19th century colours. 

The ’Colour Revolution’ exhibition presents well over one hundred objects that demonstrate the astonishing range of vibrant colours which emerged during the Victorian age (1837-1901). Drawing on the interdisciplinary research carried out for the ’Chromotope’ project, this exhibition combines science with art, fashion and design, revealing fascinating new and colourful insights into Victorian culture.

Far from being simply a matter of taste, colour is indeed a central aspect of culture, whether past or present. This is particularly true of the Victorian age during which a ’colour revolution’ took place following the invention of the first artificial coal-tar dyes. New attitudes towards colour production and perception brought about major changes in art and literature all over Europe.

For those who can make the trip across the channel, the exhibition can be seen until 18th February. Three display cases about the exhibition can also be seen at the Musée des Arts et Métiers which is a scientific partner of Chromotope.

  • Ramon Casas, Young woman - Musee Montserrat
  • Beetles - British Museum
  • Boots - Manchester Art Gallery
  • Kingsfisher -Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
  • Bookcase, details - Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

  • Charlotte Ribeyrol is Professor of 19th-century British Literature at Sorbonne Université in Paris and Honorary Curator at the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford). Her main field of research is Victorian Hellenism and the reception of the colours of the past in 19th-century painting and literature.

    Her first monograph entitled "Étrangeté, passion, couleur", L’hellénisme de Swinburne, Pater et Symonds came out in 2013. In 2014-2016 she co-directed a major interdisciplinary project on chromatic materiality with chemists and archeologists, which led to the publication of a collection of essays entitled The Colours of the Past in Victorian England (Peterlang, Oxford, 2016).  Following her Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship at Trinity College, Oxford (2016-2018), she was awarded a major ERC grant for her project CHROMOTOPE (2019-2024) which explores the 19th-century ’chromatic turn’.

    The main outcome of this project is the exhibition Colour Revolution, Victorian Art, Fashion and Design opens 21st September 2023 at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Her latest book entitled William Burges’s Great Bookcase and the Victorian Colour Revolution (Yale University Press) came out in June 2023.