History of Art research

St Peters Basilica, Vatican CityThe main focuses of our research are

  • Italian Renaissance and early Baroque art and architecture
  • modern and contemporary art, and its theories
  • sculpture and monuments

Our recent publications have covered architectural theory and attitudes to classicism in sixteenth century Veneto and new histories of patronage in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Rome. Publications on patronage includes work on the function of state propaganda in twentieth century Britain and on the relationship between the market, art critics and institutional support for British modern art. We have published on the reception of French art amongst British modern artists. In the department, an AHRC collaborative studentships are held with Tate Britain on the role of the art market in the formation of its collections and with Reading Museum Services on the sculptor John Tweed.

Our projects include work on the languages of painting and drawing including the significance of gesture and its use in invenzione expressing social change in fifteenth century Florentine painting, on Annibale Carracci's invenzione in the context of the Counter-Reformation, and new readings of noise in Francis Bacon's work. We have researched the infrastructures of art in twentieth century Britain and contemporary art globally, and art and war in the First World War, and rethinking art and war after 9/11/2001. We have recently established the War, Gender and Visual Culture Network.

Marble relief

Our work on architecture and sculpture has produced histories of pilgrimage architecture in Italy, demonstrating how architecture is used to enhance devotion, and new work on the role of modern public sculpture including Trafalgar Square, and war memorials including contemporary art. In 2003 we set up a Regional Archive Centre covering Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to catalogue public sculpture and monuments as part of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association's National Recording Project. We are also engaged in a collaborative research project cataloguing architectural drawings at Windsor.

We have held research grants for our projects from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, from the Leverhulme Trust, the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, the Max-Planck Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Rome, the Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, Harvard University, USA, and from the Henry Moore Foundation.


Staff curate exhibitions including, in recent years:

  • Degas, Sickert and Toulouse Lautrec: London and Paris 1870-1910, at Tate Britain and The Philips Collection, Washington, 2005-06
  • The Genius of Rome, 1592-1623 at the Royal Academy, also shown in Rome in 2001
  • An exhibition of sculpture, Eric Kennington's War God and other works at the Leeds City Art Gallery, 2001.


Staff in the department have given research papers at conferences internationally, including in Mantua and Rome in Italy, at Muenster, Germany, in Madrid, Spain, San Francisco and New Haven in America, and Toronto, Canada, Sao Paulo, Brazil and Bamenda, Cameroon.

In recent years we have organised the following one-day conferences within the department:

  • The Making and Remaking of European Memory after 1945, 2008
  • Sculpture and Arcadia, 2007
  • Plaster Casts: making, collecting and display, 2005
  • Sculpture and the pedestal, 2002
  • Sculpture and the monument, 2001.

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