Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Terror and Wonder : The Gothic Imagination exhibition at the British Library in London.
If you like looking at old books and classic film posters and clips (and I do) then this exhibition is a fascinating joy.
Over two hundred rare objects trace the history of the Gothic movement over 250years. It was all represented; Castles, abbeys, ruins, passionate noblemen, tyrannical fathers, scheming monks, virginal heroines and resourceful heroes.
The exhibition was split into six sections. Gothic beginnings; a taste for terror; Victorian monstrosity; decadence and degeneration; modern horrors and a weekend in Whitby.
Horace Walpole starts the exhibition off with his vivid dreaming in his Gothic villa at Strawberry Hill. The result was the Castle of Otranto. It was all part of the growing fascination with the medieval past and death.
From then it’s a journey through British Gothic literature and the ways in which it has influences all art forms and has maintained the ability to endure and entertain. Many artists and writers have adapted the terror and sensation to continually shock and excite audiences.
The British Library has dusted all the classic volumes it can down for the exhibition and relied on the BFI and other notable museums to lend out the curious. The most curious for me had to be the vampire-slaying kit on loan from the royal armouries!
The final part of the exhibition featured the specially commissioned photographs of the Whitby Goth weekend that now occurs twice a year due to the popularity of the event that’s been going strong for35 years.
I thankfully didn’t leave the exhibition terrified, just entertained and wondering about the dark shadows that the gothic imagination has cast across so many art forms and lives.