… a fascinating book to curl up with … 

ghost supernatural spooks halloween

The Ghost is a thoroughly fascinating book which traces the development of ghosts from warnings from the afterlife, through escapees from purgatory and then the devil’s playthings and finally to delicious, terrifying entertainment purely from the imagination. This history is complemented by the shifts in the images of ghosts from skeleton to a shrouded, bare footed figure to the cotton sheet.

There are old favourites such as the well known Ghost of a Flea by William Blake and new favourites including the beautiful and eerie three works by Paul Nash. Susan reminded of the extraordinary spiritualist painter Georgiana Houghton and introduced me to writer and essayist Vernon Lee (Violet Paget).

The book is furnished with detailed references should you wish to follow up a line of enquiry, a thoughtful selection of colour plates and a great bibliography.

Highly recommended.

Susan Owens studied English at Oxford and European art at the Courtauld, gaining her PhD from the University of London. She was Assistant Curator at University College London and then worked for the Royal Collection as Assistant Curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle. From 2007 to 2013 she was Curator of Paintings at the V & A, where she was responsible for oils, watercolours and drawings from 1800 to the present day. She is now a freelance curator, writer and art historian, who publishes and
lectures widely on British Art.

Cover design moment : The alluring cover design is by Anvi Patel and I think she strikes the right balance between spooky – the chalky wisps and wonky lettering – and academic – the old style font. You can see more of her work here. The lovely typesetting carries on through the book with elegant lay outs and wisps for section breaks.

The Ghost A Cultural History by Susan Owens was published by Tate Publishing in October 2017.