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My research is focussed primarily on the history of British visual culture and I have published on a number of different aspects of this area including:

  • Representations of Victorian femininity.
  • The visual culture of the metropolis.
  • Painting, photography and film c.1900.
  • Post-war British art and culture.

As well as this work on the nineteenth century and twentieth century, I have also published on the history and significance of the female nude, examining debates and images from antiquity to recent feminist interventions. I have also published on contemporary artists such as Chila Kumari Burman and Mark Quinn.

In recent years I have presented papers and published on the visual culture of boxing, examining the ways in which photographs of the head punch or the eye cut offer a powerful and original way of understanding the representation of gender, violence and the body. Sports photography is an extremely neglected field of study and offers many opportunities for innovative research.

I have an ongoing interest in the interface between art history and other disciplines and have collaborated with colleagues on books relating to art and law; art and cultural history; and art and geography. The history of art is a profoundly interdisciplinary field of research and some of the most exciting work comes from pushing at the boundaries of conventional disciplines.

Current Research Work

I have recently published a history of post-war British art and culture called The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Post-War Britain. This book brings together a wide range of visual media and cultural debates that were generated in this period to represent the atmosphere of the nation in the new post-war environment. It includes fine art and photography, film, television and advertising. The book traces the expressive visual languages of black and white media and the diverse attempts within Britain in the post-war period to take on colour. Colour was compelling and modern, it was the world of commodities and entertainment; it was also the world of empire and migration and the encounter of the black and the white on the streets of Britain. Homes and nation are inextricably linked within the period: companionate marriages, a stable nation and a Commonwealth based on equal partnership. These beliefs and values were set out in texts but they were defined most vividly and forcibly in the visual media of the period, which are the focus of the study. (Published by Paul Mellon Studies in British Art for Yale University Press, 2017)

I have also recently curated an exhibition at The Foundling Museum called ‘The Fallen Woman’, which brings together nineteenth-century paintings, prints and photography on this subject, alongside material from the archive of the Foundling Hospital (September 2015 - January 2016).

Selected Awards and Conferences

  • 2015: Awarded AHRC 10th Anniversary Cultural Engagement’ grant for ‘The Fallen Woman: Film, Archive, Afterlife.’
  • 2013 - 2015: Awarded a 2013 Leverhulme Research Fellowship for a project entitled The Tiger in the Smoke: British Visual Culture 1945-60.
  • December 2016 - 'Once More the Fallen Woman', Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.
  • November 2016 - 'Woman in a Dressing Gown: Women and Domesticity in Post-War Britain', The Derek Jarman Annual Lecture, University of Kent.
  • November 2016 - 'The Grain of Post-War Britain, Bert Hardy and Picture Post', Photography and Britishness, Yale Center for British Art.
  • September 2016 - 'Post-War Homes and Open Fires', Material Cultures of Energy', Science Museum.
  • July 2016 - 'The Aesthetics of Boxing', 21st Annual Conference of the European College of Sport Science, University of Vienna.
  • September 2015 - '"Red Taffeta Under a Tweed Skirt": Race, Colour and Dress in Post-War Britain', Look of Austerity, Museum of London.