Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Schools
  3. School of Arts and Cultures
  4. Art History
  5. Research
  6. Art Histories in Focus

Art Histories in Focus

Early Modern Art

The department has a strong specialisation in Early Modern that spans the history of Byzantine art, the Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance art. Our research considers both canonical and non-canonical imagery using a range of contextual approaches. Archival research and the close examination of objects as well as innovative methodologies inform our investigation of focused problems in Early Modern art history.

Kathleen Christian is a specialist in Italian Renaissance art with a particular interest on the reception of antiquity. She has recently published Empire without End: Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527 (Yale University Press, 2010) and the co-edited volume Patronage and Italian Renaissance Sculpture. She is currently co-editing the acts of the conference ‘The Muses and their Afterlife in post-Classical Europe’ held at the Warburg Institute in 2008 and pursuing research projects on Michelangelo’s Bacchus and the invention and reception of Raphael’s artistic persona.

Leah Clark specialises in Italian Renaissance art with a focus on collecting in the Italian courts in the fifteenth century. She is currently completing a book manuscript, provisionally titled Objects and Exchanges: Circulation, Replication, and Association in the Italian Courts (1450-1500). Her research has appeared in the Journal of Early Modern History, the Journal of the History of Collections, and in the conference proceedings of CIHA, The Challenge of the Object / Die Herausforderung des Objekts (forthcoming fall 2013). Her work engages with theoretical issues concerning the agency of objects and their exchange. Her next project pursues the cross-cultural dynamics of collecting, examining the collection and replication of foreign objects and materials in Italian collections.

Angeliki Lymberopoulou is a specialist in late and post-Byzantine art, with a focus on the art produced on the island of Crete under Venetian domination (1211-1669). She is particularly interested in cross-cultural interactions, influences and exchanges between the Byzantine East and the European West (predominantly Italy) as well as in artistic movement and patronage and their dependence on socio-economic factors. Her singled-authored book The Church of the Archangel Michael at Kavalariana: Art and Society on Fourteenth-Century Venetian-dominated Crete (Pindar Press, London, 2006) addresses cross-cultural interactions on the island through the detailed examination of single church, while her most recent co-edited volume Byzantine Art and Renaissance Europe (Ashgate, Farnham, 2013) examines wider cultural exchanges between (Byzantine) East and (European) West.

Kim Woods focuses on late Gothic and Renaissance sculpture in northern Europe c.1300-1550, particularly materials. Her single-authored book Imported Images (Shaun Tyas, 2007) examined Netherlandish sculpture now in England, most of which is of wood. Her current book, Cut in Alabaster, explores the practice and significance of alabaster sculpture in north west and Mediterranean Europe and is to be published by Brepols 2014/15. She is particularly interested in cross-cultural interaction and although originally a Netherlandish specialist now ranges from Britain to Spain. Her most recent publication is an article on alabaster sculpture in From Minor to Major: the Minor arts in Medieval Art History, ed. C. Hourihane (Princeton, 2012).

Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture

This group carries out major research projects in eighteenth-century art, culture, architecture and design, such as Barker’s work on ‘sentimentalism’ as a cultural category, and is engaged in on-going projects on portraiture, gender and society (including Perry’s The First Actresses exhibition and book project). McKellar, West and Taylor have also helped to place architecture and design at the heart of this eighteenth-century research grouping.

Recent seminars and conferences:

Re-appraising the Neo-Georgian 1880-1970, available on the Open Arts Archive.

Emma Barker is a specialist in French eighteenth and early nineteenth-century art, with a particular interest in sentimentalism as an aesthetic and cultural category. She is the author of Greuze and the Painting of Sentiment (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Her work has also appeared in the Oxford Art Journal, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Art Bulletin, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies and Representations. She is currently working on portraiture and domesticity in both French and British eighteenth-century art and is developing a book project provisionally entitled Figures of Pathos: Melancholy and Mourning in Late Eighteenth-Century Art.

Elizabeth McKellar is a specialist in seventeenth and eighteenth-century British architecture and culture with a particular focus on London urbanism. She is the author of The Birth of Modern London: the Development and Design of the City 1660-1720 (Manchester University Press, 1999) and with Barbara Arciszewska, Articulating British Classicism: New Approaches in Eighteenth-Century Architecture (Ashgate, 2004). Her most recent book is The Landscapes of London: the City, the Country and the Suburbs 1660-1840 (Yale University Press, 2013) which explores the city-country relationship in the outer London ‘region’.

Gill Perry has published widely on eighteenth century feminine portraiture, with a special interest in the relationship between theatrical and painted notions of ‘performance’. Her publications in this area include: ‘The Spectacle of the Muse: Exhibiting the Actress at the Royal Academy’, in Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, ed. David Solkin (Paul Mellon Centre and Yale University Press, 2002); ‘Ambiguity and Desire in late Eighteenth Century Portraits of the Actress’ in Notorious Muse: The Actress in British Culture 1776-1812, ed. Robyn Asleson (Paul Mellon Centre and Yale University Press), ‘Staging Gender and “Hairy Signs”: Representing Dorothy Jordan’s Curls’, Eighteenth Century Studies, vol.38, no.1, 2004. Her monograph Spectacular Flirtations: Viewing the Actress in British Art 1768-1820 (Paul Mellon Centre and Yale University Press, 2007) was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize, 2008. In 2011 she curated a major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery: The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons and co-authored the exhibition catalogue.

Susie West is an architectural historian specialising in the English country house. She has a particular interest in the private library, both as a designed space within the country house plan and as a repository for collections. Her interdisciplinary approach to the design of the English country house library, 1660-1830, is forthcoming as a monograph. Recent work has examined the varying scale of portraiture and its meaning within the interior scheme of the library of 1718 at Narford Hall, Norfolk, as ‘Life in the library’ in G. Perry et al eds, Placing Faces, The Portrait and the Country House 1650-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2013); work in press includes ‘An architectural typology for the early modern country house library, 1660-1720’, The Library, December, 2013; and a review of the methodological challenges in ‘Looking back from 1700: problems in locating the country house library’ in M. Dimmock, A. Hadfield and M. Healy eds, The Intellectual Culture of the English Country House, 1500-1700 (Manchester University Press, in press for 2014).

Clare Taylor specialises in British art and design in the eighteenth century, with a focus on the study of the interior and its decorative products. She has published articles on the eighteenth-century wallpaper trade and its consumers in the Wallpaper History Review, the Journal of the British Association of Paper Historians and in The Georgian Group Journal. She has a particular interest in issues of crosscultural exchange and the gendering of space in Chinese wallpapers and their imitations in Britain, and her work in this area has been published (2009) in the proceedings of the Centennial wallpaper conference held at the Nordiska Museet. She is currently preparing her monograph, The cultural history of wallpaper in eighteenth-century Britain.

Modern and Contemporary Art & Theory

Modern and Contemporary Art is one of the core strengths of the Art History Department at the OU. Over the last decade department members have produced a range of internationally-recognised publications. Increasingly they are also involved in organising exhibitions, such as Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire at the Walker Art Gallery, co-curated by Leon Wainwright, and Crystal World at The Royal Society and Water at the C2 Gallery, all curated or co-curated by Gill Perry.

The Modern and Contemporary Art & Theory group actively collaborates with 17 galleries and museums across the UK to and organise talks and special events throughout the year. Many of these are available for viewing at any time on the Open Arts Archive, which provides open access to over 250 separate interviews and podcasts.

Research in photography and lens-based media has included Steve Edwards’ recent monograph Martha Rosler: The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems and his forthcoming book on patent law in 19th century photography. Another focus has been on gender studies, which intersects with the interests of the Open University’s Gender in the Humanities Research group (co-chaired by Gill Perry). Collaborative seminars have lead to cross-disciplinary publication on Gender, Knitting and Stitching, with contributions from the Art History and Design areas.

Members of this research group have produced the internationally-acclaimed three volume series Art in Theory: an Anthology of Changing Ideas, 1648-1815; 1815-1900; 1900-2000 (edited by Charles Harrison, Paul Wood and Jason Gaiger), which will be continued in the volume Art in Theory: The West and the World edited by Paul Wood and Leon Wainwright (forthcoming).

Recent seminars and conferences:

'Other Worlds of British Pop' in conjunction with the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern, March 2013. 

‘Violence and Representation’, co-organised by Steve Edwards, Simon Baker and John Roberts, Tate Modern, September 18th, 2010, to coincide with the exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, available on the Tate website.


Steve Edwards works on photography, contemporary art and Marxist and socialist theory – separately and in their possible permutations. He is on the editorial board of Oxford Art Journal; Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory and the Historical Materialism Book Series. He helps organise the annual Historical Materialism conference and plays a central role in the associated network. He is also a convener for the research seminar Marxism in Culture. Recent Publications include an analysis of a single artwork (Martha Rosler, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, Afterall, 2012) and a reconstruction of nineteenth-century British photographic theory (The Making of English Photography, Allegories, Pennsylvania University Press, 2006). His work has been translated into eight languages. He is currently preparing an edited collection of essays by Adrian Rifkin and a book on intellectual property, the self and photography in nineteenth-century Britain.

Gill Perry has a research interest in gender issues in modern and contemporary art and her publications in this area include: Gender and Art (editor and co-author), Yale University Press, 1993; Women Artists and the Parisian Avant-Garde: Modernism and ‘Feminine’ Art 1900 to the late 1920s, Manchester University Press, 1995; Rethinking Art between the Wars: New Perspectives in Art History, (ed. Oystein Hjort) co-author, University of Copenhagen-Museum Tusculanum Press, 2001; Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art: The Visibility of Women’s Practice, ed., Special Issue of Art History 2003 and published by Blackwells, 2004.

Leon Wainwright has led a general expansion to a more ‘global’ approach to art history, offering a deeper understanding of the discipline’s place in the humanities by integrating new perspectives, especially that of the Caribbean. A graduate of the School of World Art Studies and Museology (University of East Anglia), he holds postgraduate and research degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London), and has held visiting fellowships at the University of California, Berkeley and the Yale Center for British Art. Alongside numerous scholarly articles, he is author of the monographs Timed Out: Art and the Transnational Caribbean (Manchester University Press, 2011) and Phenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art (Liverpool University Press, 2017), and co-editor with Paul Wood and Charles Harrison, of the forthcoming volume Art in Theory: The West in the World (An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Wiley Blackwell).

Request your prospectus

Request a prospectus icon

Explore our qualifications and courses by requesting one of our prospectuses today.

Request prospectus

Are you already an OU student?

Go to StudentHome