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Department of History of Art


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Professor Caroline van Eck, Dr Frank Salmon and Professor Rosalind Polly Blakesley

The Department’s vibrant research culture in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art and architecture dates from the 1970s. Professor David Watkin established Cambridge as a world-leading centre for the study of British and European architecture, and Dr John Gage carried out pioneering work on J.M.W. Turner and on colour in art

Since then, the appointments of Professor Blakesley (2002), Dr Salmon (2006) and Professor van Eck (2016) have consolidated strengths in architecture in its British and continental European contexts; the reception, interrogation and interpretation of classical antiquity, including Greek archaeology and antiquarianism; art and architecture in northern and eastern Europe; and the anthropology of art. Particular areas of expertise include Dr Salmon’s work on British architects of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, among them James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, C.R. Cockerell and William Kent, as well as Italianate architecture in Victorian Britain; Professor van Eck’s scholarship on Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Gottfried Semper and Aby Warburg; and Professor Blakesley’s work on the art and architecture of Russia and the Baltic Sea region, and on the Arts and Crafts Movement internationally. This research is part of the Department’s on-going, fundamental questioning of the canons of art history and the narratives we write about them. We are also committed to the widening of the scope of art history by including art from the supposed ‘peripheries’ of Europe, and integrating insights and methods from the anthropology of art and the material turn with reception studies.

These and other projects have involved collaboration across the University, including with colleagues in Architecture, Classics, History and Modern and Medieval Languages, as well as national partnerships with the Courtauld Institute of Art and Historic England and international partnerships with, among others, the Ecole Normale in Paris, the Ludwig-Maximiliansuniversität in Munich and Moscow State University. 

Our eighteenth- and nineteenth-century specialists have curated or contributed to international exhibitions in museums and galleries including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London; the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington DC; and the Bard Graduate Center, New York. They have also supervised graduate students who now hold leadership, academic and curatorial roles in national museums, galleries and universities in Europe, Australasia and the United States. Collectively, the work of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century specialists sustains the Department’s reputation for object-led research in multiple national and cultural contexts, and for theoretically-grounded, interdisciplinary research. 

Associated Research Staff

  • Dr Deniz Turker, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Affiliated Lecturer in History of Art