AOIF acquires John Collier’s controversial painting, “The Laboratory”

Los Angeles, CA, September 7, 2023 – The Arts of Imagination Foundation today announced their acquisition of John Collier’s artistic masterwork, The Laboratory, in a private sale negotiated by Christie’s in New York. 

The 1895 oil painting is an instantly recognizable example of Victorian Gothic art and has rarely been displayed publicly. Its striking visuals and roots in storytelling played a vital role in the Arts of Imagination Foundation’s decision to make The Laboratory part of their permanent collection. The painting will be publicly available as part of the Foundation’s continuing efforts to illuminate how stories and art influence our culture and inspire personal discovery.

The Laboratory marks Collier’s first major genre painting to be acquired by a U.S. institute. It is part of the artist’s body of work depicting femme fatales, which includes portrayals of scandalous women such as Clytemnestra (housed at the Guildhall Art Gallery) and Lady Godiva (housed at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum). 

The Laboratory is considered to be a pinnacle work of Collier’s career, highlighting a seductive, darker side of womanhood than what was traditionally expected of the Victorian wife and mother. He drew inspiration from Robert Browning’s salacious 1844 poem of the same name, which follows the exploits of the Marquise de Brinvillers, one of the world’s first female serial killers, who scandalized Paris when she was beheaded in 1676, after having been found guilty of poisoning her father and two brothers.

Brady Schwind, Executive Director of The Arts of Imagination Foundation, said, “The Laboratory gives us a dynamic vehicle to explore how story and artwork capture elements of the human experience that resonate universally throughout time. Collier’s fascination with mythology and psychological tension provides a timeless mirror to better understand our own fantasies, and the simultaneous repulsion and attraction we feel in response to the theme of revenge.”

About The Arts of Imagination Foundation

The Arts of Imagination Foundation, 501(c)(3) preserves timeless stories and the artwork they have inspired, illuminating their heritage and relevance and, in the process, elevating our understanding of how art and stories have influenced our culture, beliefs and selves for thousands of years.

With a growing collection of story-inspired artwork that encompasses both historically significant works and new commissions, The Arts of Imagination Foundation brings art and story into unique environments to provide personally resonant conversations.