Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

British Library

3 October 2014 – 20 January 2015

£5 with National Art Pass (standard entry £10)

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From Bram Stoker to the Chapman Brothers, the exhibition explores the influence of the terrifying, the mysterious and the macabre in literature and beyond.

Two hundred and fifty years ago the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto caused a sensation. A tale of unexplained death, ancient prophecies and supernatural happenings, it was a ground-breaking work that marked the beginning of a new genre. The narrative devices coined by Walpole are now considered definitively gothic; mysterious sounds, independently opening doors, a beautiful heroine and an eerie castle setting.

This exhibition celebrates the genre in Britain in the years since Walpole's novel. Featured are many of the great gothic masterpieces; Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll. Further exhibits are used to consider its influence in contemporary writers' work.

Changing notions of what is considered as dark and monstrous are an indicator of social anxieties of the time.

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Gothic influences have infiltrated across popular culture, and the exhibition also includes examples of costume, film, photography and artwork from the likes of Henry Fuseli, William Blake, Stanley Kubrick and the Chapman Brothers. 

Venue information

Opening times

Main building

Mon – Thu, 9.30am – 8pm

Fri, 9.30am –​6pm (Sat until 5pm)

​Sun, 11am-5pm

Treasures Gallery and PACCAR exhibitions

Tue –Thu, 9.30am-8pm, Mon & Fri until 6pm, Sat until 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pm

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)