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Department of History of Art



James is an art historian who studies medieval things, specifically the art and architecture of northwestern Europe between 1000 and 1600. His research focuses on Gothic architecture in England, France and Germany, with a particular emphasis on the roles of drawing, language and memory in communicating architectural designs, techniques and ideas over long distances. James completed his PhD in the Department of History of Art at the University of York in 2015 on the topic of St Stephen’s Chapel at the Palace of Westminster. In 2016 he was appointed to a Research Fellowship by Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge, during which he embarked on a new project on the practical processes behind architectural copying and international artistic exchange in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. From 2018-2021 he was a postdoctoral researcher on the Tracing the Past: English Medieval Vaults project at the University of Liverpool, which involves the use of digital surveying and analytical techniques to study the design and construction of medieval vaulting. He is currently a Teaching Associate in the Department of History of Art at Cambridge and an Honorary Research Associate in the Liverpool School of Architecture.


 Gothic art and architecture in northwestern Europe, 1100-1600

- The relationship between drawing, language and architectural design

- International artistic exchange during the Middle Ages

- Design and construction in medieval vaulting

- Digital art history (especially laser scanning, photogrammetry, 3D modelling and reflectance transformation imaging)


Key publications: 


Alexandrina Buchanan, James Hillson and Nicholas Webb, Tracing the Past: Digital Analysis of English Gothic Vaults (London and New York: Routledge, 2021).



James Hillson, ‘Linearity and the Gothic Style: Architectural Conception in England and France, 1200-1400,’ Tributes to Paul Binski. Medieval Gothic Art, Architecture & Ideas, edited by Julian Luxford (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021). 

James Hillson, ‘Villard de Honnecourt and Bar Tracery: Reims Cathedral and Processes of Stylistic Transmission ca. 1210-40,’ Gesta 59:2 (2020), 169-202.

James Hillson, ‘Heraldry, Time and the King’s Two Bodies: the Palace and Abbey at Westminster, 1253–1363’ in Heraldry in State-Rooms, edited by Torsten Hiltmann (Stuttgart: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 2020).

James Hillson, 'Imagining Invention: the character of the ‘Gothic architect’ and England, 1200-1400,’ British Art Studies 6 (2017).

James Hillson, ‘Architectural Interaction Post-Bony: Regionality, Centrality and Archetypes in the English Decorated Style 1250-1350' in Decorated Revisited: English Architectural Style in Context, 1250-1400, edited by John Munns (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017).

James Hillson, ‘Edward III and the Art of Authority: Military Triumph and the Decoration of St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster 1330-64’ in Medieval and Early Modern Representations of Authority in Scotland and Northern Europe, edited by Kate Buchanan, Lucy Dean and M. Penmann (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).


Published Conference Papers

James Hillson, Nicholas Webb, Alexandrina Buchanan and Sarah Duffy, ‘Investigating Forms and Formwork in the Nave Aisles at Tewkesbury Abbey’ in Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress on Construction History (7ICCH), Lisbon, Portugal, 12-16 July 2021: History of Construction Cultures, ed. João. Mascarenhas-Mateus et al., vol. 2 (Leiden: CRC Press, 2021), 32-38. 

Nicholas Webb, James Hillson, Alexandrina Buchanan and Sarah Duffy, ‘Two- and Three-dimensional Geometry in Tierceron Vaults: A Case Study of the Cloister at Norwich Cathedral’ in Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress on Construction History …, vol. 2 (Leiden: CRC Press, 2021), 71-77.

Nicholas Webb, James Hillson, John Robert Peterson, Alexandrina Buchanan and Sarah Duffy, ‘Documentation and analysis of a medieval tracing floor using photogrammetry, reflectance transformation imaging and laser scanning’ in eCAADe 2020 conference proceedings (Anthropologic – Architecture and Fabrication in the cognitive age), ed. Liss C. Werner and Dietmar Köring, vol. 2, (Brussels and Berlin: eCAAD, 2021), 209-18.


Teaching Associate in History of Art
Convenor of Part I: the Making of Art
Honorary Research Associate at the Liverpool School of Architecture, University of Liverpool