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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
  • Obscenity and the Victorian regulation of visual culture
  • Painting, photography and film c.1900.

As well as this work on the nineteenth century and early-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.

Recently, 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 completed a history of post-war British art and culture called The Tiger in the Smoke: Visual Arts in Britain c.1945-60. This book brings together a wide range of visual media and cultural debates that were generated in this period to represent the character of the nation and its people 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. (To be published by Paul Mellon Studies in British Art, Yale University Press, autumn 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 (open till 3 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 2013: Keynote speaker at the international conference on ‘Politics and Urban Space’ at Paris Diderot, France. Lecture on the persistence of images of the Victorian city in post-war British art and culture.
  • October 2013: Keynote speaker at the international colloquium on ‘The Body Imaged’, at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Lecture on fashion and the body in nineteenth-century art.
  • June 2013: Plenary speaker at the first combined conference of Victorian Studies Associations from Britain, North America and Australia, held in Venice.
  • May 2013: Keynote speaker at an international conference, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Department of the Arts at Ben-Gurion University, Israel. My lecture was titled The Tiger in the Smoke: The Fog of Modernity in 1950s London.