New research on British art benefits museums and their visitors in the UK and overseas
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Research at the University of Bristol on the international contexts of
British art has made a distinctive contribution to a renaissance of
British art studies that began in the late 1980s. Over the past five
years, scholars at Bristol have worked with museums in London, the regions
and overseas to engage the widest possible audience in fresh thinking
about British art. Exhibitions and catalogue essays informed by their
research have raised awareness of individual artists and changed public
and critical perceptions of British art as a whole. They have also brought
many benefits to the museum partners, attracting visitors, generating
income and enhancing the museums' understanding of their own collections.
Some exhibitions have inspired additional collaborations which have fed
back into research and further extended audiences for British art.
British art from the 16th century to the present is a major
focus of research at Bristol. The scholars listed below share a commitment
to re-evaluating British art in its international contexts - a project
they have in common with galleries such as Tate Britain, with its `mission
to encourage a broader understanding of the international reach of Tate's
historic collection' [a]. Scholars at Bristol seek to extend their
research through curatorial collaborations, encouraging fresh
interpretations of objects and reaching new audiences. In 2010, a British
Art Research Cluster (BARC) was established at Bristol, funded by the
university, to consolidate and further promote the focus on British art
BARC is managed by a committee of staff (led first by Elizabeth Prettejohn
and currently by Grace Brockington) and postgraduate research students. It
coordinates symposia, grant applications, postgraduate research and
curatorial projects. Its activities include a programme of teaching
collaborations with museums and galleries at MA and PhD level, which lead
to public exhibitions in their own right.
1. Elizabeth Prettejohn (Professor of History of Art, October 2005 to
Since the late 1980s, Prettejohn has played a leading role in the
re-evaluation of Victorian and modern art in Britain. Her work
demonstrates the importance of British art in its wider international
contexts, impacting on the study of modern art abroad, as well as within
Britain. Her research pays particular attention to the vanguard movements
of the 19th century, especially Pre-Raphaelitism and
Aestheticism. Her publications on these subjects [1, 2] are regarded as
the standard works in the field, as shown by the fact that she was invited
to give the Paul Mellon lectures in British Art (2011) at the National
Gallery, London, repeated at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven,
Connecticut, USA. She has advanced her research through the curation of
exhibitions and through contributions to numerous exhibition catalogues
(detailed in section 4).
2. Grace Brockington (Senior Lecturer in History of Art, joined
Brockington's research on art, internationalism and the peace movement in
the early 20th century has expanded the field of British art
studies, both in its discovery of new material and in the case it makes
for the cosmopolitan character of modern art in Britain. Her work on
pacifism in the First World War  was developed through her role as
advisor on the exhibition Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega
Workshops 1913-19 (Courtauld Gallery, London, 2009). Her edited
collection  led to an AHRC-funded research network entitled
`Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870-1920' (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/research/ice/),
with Tate Britain as one of several partners. She has designed and
supervised AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award projects in
partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales (2008-11) and the
Imperial War Museum, London (2011-14), both of which include public
exhibitions in their processes of research and dissemination.
3. Dorothy Rowe (Senior Lecturer in History of Art, joined September
Since the late 1990s, Rowe has conducted research on contemporary
diasporic artists working in Britain. Her work is informed by feminist
methodologies and pays particular attention to marginalised groups such as
black, women and transgendered artists. She argues against a reductively
sociological explanation of their work, seeking instead to recover a sense
of its aesthetic value and responsiveness to the art-historical canon. Her
research has led to publications  including catalogue essays, and to
dialogues and collaborations with curators such as Paul Goodwin (Tate
Britain), and the artist-curators Phil Sayers and Rikke Lundgreen on their
exhibition Changing Places (National Museums Liverpool; Bury Art
Gallery, Museum and Archive; The Collection and the Tennyson Research
Centre, Lincoln; and Leeds City Art Gallery; 2008-9).
4. Tatiana String (Senior Lecturer in History of Art, October 1998 to
String's research repositions Tudor art in the wider culture of Early
Modern Europe. Her monograph  examines the function of art as
propaganda, particularly through the medium of portraiture. She developed
her work on portraiture through two exhibitions with the National Portrait
Gallery, London (NPG) and the National Trust, co-curated with Tarnya
Cooper (chief curator and 16th century curator at NPG) and
assisted by a team of postgraduate students: `On the Nature of Women':
Tudor and Jacobean Portraits of Women (Montacute House, Somerset,
2008-9); and Imagined Lives: Mystery Portraits 1520-1640
(Montacute House; The National Portrait Gallery, London; M Shed, Bristol;
References to the research
 Prettejohn, Elizabeth, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the
Pre-Raphaelites, Cambridge University Press, 2012, 329 pp.
Prettejohn contributed the `Introduction' (1-14), `The Painting of Dante
Gabriel Rossetti' (103-15), and `Envoi' (265-72).
Reviewed in The Journal of Pre- Raphaelite Studies, vol. 22, Fall
 Prettejohn, Elizabeth, `Waterhouse's Imagination', in Elizabeth
Prettejohn et al., J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite,
Royal Academy of Arts; Groninger Museum, 2008, 23-35. Prettejohn also
contributed 33 out of 59 catalogue entries. Can be supplied upon request.
Reviewed in Visual Culture in Britain, vol. 10, November 2009.
 Brockington, Grace, Above the Battlefield: Modernism and the Peace
Movement in Britain, 1900-1918, Yale University Press, 2010, 264 pp.
Supported by a British Academy Small Research Grant (£3,707, awarded
2010). Listed in REF2.
 Brockington, Grace, ed., Internationalism and the Arts in Britain
and Europe at the Fin de Siècle, Peter Lang, 2009, 368 pp.
Brockington contributed the introduction (1-24) and one chapter: `"A
Jacob's Ladder between Country and Country": Art and Diplomacy before the
First World War', 297-319. Listed in REF2.
 Dorothy Rowe, `Retrieving, Re-Mapping and Rewriting Histories of
British Art: Lubaina Himid's Revenge', in Dana Arnold and David
Peters-Corbett, eds, A Companion to British Art 1600- Present,
Wiley Blackwell, 2013, 289-314. Listed in REF2.
 String, Tatiana, Art and Communication in the Reign of Henry VIII,
Ashgate, 2008, 157 pp. Can be supplied upon request. Reviewed in The
Journal of British Studies, vol. 50, October 2011.
Details of the impact
Research at Bristol has contributed to a number of exhibitions, raising
the visibility of British art, drawing attention to its international
contexts, changing perceptions of individual artists, generating footfall
and economic benefit for the host museums and improving understanding of
collections. The process of curating has expanded the underlying research
and led to further scholarship and exhibitions, building a symbiotic
relationship between university and museum. The following takes a
selection of these exhibitions as examples of the impact that BARC has
Prettejohn's work on Victorian art has been key to the development
of exhibitions such as: The Pre-Raphaelites
(Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2009); Edward Burne-Jones: The Earthly
Paradise (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 2009-10); The Pre-Raphaelites
and Italy (Ravenna Museum of Art; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2010); J.
W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite (Groninger Museum; Royal
Academy of Arts, London; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2008-10); The
Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 (Victoria and
Albert Museum, London; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; Fine Arts Museums of San
Francisco, 2011-12); and Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde
(Tate Britain, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Pushkin
Museum, Moscow; the Mori Art Center, Tokyo, 2012-14). These exhibitions
give evidence of the international growth of interest in Victorian art to
which Prettejohn's work has been central. They depend heavily on her
scholarship, particularly her publications on the Pre-Raphaelites which
culminated most recently in her edited collection . In several cases,
she contributed essays to the exhibition catalogues , extending her
research and disseminating it to a wider public readership. She was
appointed co-curator of J.W. Waterhouse, and sat on the advisory
committees for the V&A and Tate exhibitions. Victorian Avant-Garde
was the second-most popular exhibition ever staged at Tate Britain, with
some 243,000 people attending [b]. Sales of tickets and related
merchandise (e.g. 32,000 catalogues) delivered considerable economic
benefit for the gallery. The lead curator has highlighted the importance
of Prettejohn's argument that Victorian art should be reassessed in its
international contexts, stating that: `Prettejohn's essay on the
Pre-Raphaelite legacy was praised both in the critical press and on the
Tate blog with visitors praising her ability to communicate complex
academic issues to a broad audience. The exhibition has been perceived as
marking a paradigm shift in scholarship of nineteenth-century British art,
especially with regard to the international impact of Pre-Raphaelites, the
focus of Prettejohn's essay' [b]. The Telegraph (10 September
2010) singled out Prettejohn's essay as `provocative and surprising',
commenting that the exhibition would `get people thinking'.
Brockington's research on art and pacifism in the First World War
, and on the cosmopolitan culture which contributed to the peace
movement , was instrumental to the exhibition Beyond Bloomsbury.
As a result of her insights, the Omega's pacifist politics became a major
theme of the exhibition and its education programme. She advised on the
planning of the exhibition and contributed a catalogue essay on the Omega
Workshops in wartime, which the lead curator described as `a cornerstone
of the exhibition in the way it was presented to the public' [c]. Some
exhibits were included as a direct result of her advice, the curator
stating that their interpretation `was based largely on the research
provided by Dr Brockington' [c]. The teachers' resource pack for schools
highlighted the context of the peace movement and included Brockington's
published work in its sources for further reading [d]. The exhibition as a
whole was well attended (close to 44,000 visitors [c]), pulling its weight
in a record year for the Courtauld Gallery (179,000 visitors across four
exhibitions [e]), and generating income through ticket sales and related
merchandise (profits from the shop totalled £94,660 [c]). The show was
widely reviewed. The Burlington Magazine (vol. 151, September 2009,
pp.634-5) stated that `this timely and well-displayed exhibition will go
some way to establishing the Omega's proper place within the wider
international field of experimental early modernist art and design', while
Studio International (22 July 2009) observed that `this is a key
exhibition, a revision that examines an important episode in British art'.
It singled out Brockington's essay for comment, and noted that `the
catalogue is excellent - a major contribution to the scholarship of the
Rowe's argument that the work of contemporary artists from
marginal groups belongs equally to the mainstream of art-historical
tradition  led to a commission to write catalogue essays for the
exhibition Changing Places (2008-9). The project brought recent
feminist art to new audiences by integrating it with more traditional
collections in popular venues. As the Lincolnshire Echo (14
February 2008) noted, it `reaches parts other exhibitions don't [...] the
show provides a new take on both the historic and contemporary works'. The
curators' `Final Activity Report' cites indicators that the exhibitions
attracted new audiences [f]. The project was incorporated into Lesbian Gay
Bisexual Trans (LGBT) History Month in Lincoln (February 2008). It was the
setting for an LGBT cabaret event hosted by The Collection, at which 42%
of the 180-plus visitors were attending the museum for the first time [g].
The exhibition also had an impact on the presentation of permanent
collections: `re-hanging parts of the collection was sometimes so
successful that the galleries wanted to keep the new changes' [f]. The
collaboration between Rowe, Sayers and Lundgreen was developed further in
the exhibition Myth & History (2009) at The Bristol Gallery,
curated by Rowe and including the artist Lubaina Himid, about whom Rowe
has also written .
Research-based postgraduate teaching in British art has led to
several public exhibitions. For example, String's work on Tudor
portraiture  led to collaborative MA projects with NPG, notably the
exhibition Imagined Lives. Student research, supervised by String
and guided by her published work on the conventions of Tudor portraiture,
led to discoveries that informed the exhibition catalogue and wall texts.
Eight celebrated authors (including John Banville, Tracy Chevalier and
Joanna Trollope) supplied fictional lives to accompany the portraits,
leading the Guardian (17 March 2010) to comment that `new life is
being breathed into [the] collection'. Their stories have been published
on the NPG website (http://www.npg.org.uk/business/publications/)
and as a book. The authors have also given talks at the gallery and
online, such as Chevalier speaking about her story on the website Technology,
Entertainment, Design: Ideas Worth Spreading (http://www.ted.com/talks/).
The exhibition proved successful enough to transfer from the National
Trust's Montacute House (2010-11) to the NPG itself (2011-12). The NPG
press release notes that research undertaken at Bristol `led to a clearer
understanding of the past of these portraits [...] more evidence is now
available about the possible identity of the sitters' [h], while the National
Trust Bulletin welcomed the exhibition as `a chance to undertake
conservation work on these pictures, improving their condition and
appearance after many years in storage' [i]. When the show transferred to
M Shed in Bristol (2012-13), a new layer was added with the introduction
of contemporary photographic portraits of famous Bristolians. M Shed
contacted the university for further input, and Dr Peter Dent gave a
public gallery lecture (28 November 2012). Dent was appointed as a
Renaissance specialist following String's departure and is continuing the
teaching collaboration with NPG. Public feedback on his talk stated, for
example, that `I really felt I understood the art/artists better for
hearing the talk [...] I'll definitely be back to see the exhibition
again' [j]. The exhibition has incorporated extensive opportunities for
visitor interaction. For example, visitors were invited to respond by
writing their own fictional lives, some of which have appeared on blogs,
such as http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/real-and-imagined-lives-at-mshed.html.
One visitor tweeted that `it's a great exhibition and my grandson spent an
hour typing his short story' (https://twitter.com/mshedbristol/status/271927057913626626).
Sources to corroborate the impact
[a] Stephen Deuchar, `Director's Foreword', in Alison Smith, ed., Symbolist
Art in Poland, London: Tate Publishing, 2009. States Tate's mission
to explore the international contexts of British art.
[b] Head of British Art to 1900, Tate Britain, London. Details
Prettejohn's contribution to Pre- Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-garde,
and the importance of the exhibition as a whole.
[c] Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Courtauld Gallery, London.
Details Brockington's contribution to Beyond Bloomsbury, and the
importance of the exhibition as a whole.
[d] The Courtauld Gallery, `Teachers' Resource: Beyond Bloomsbury
Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-19', 2009, pp. 7, 14. A school
education pack which draws on and cites Brockington's research.
[e] Courtauld Institute of Art, `Report and Financial Statements 31 July
2009', p. 6. Cites visitor numbers for the Courtauld Gallery in 2009,
demonstrating the success of Beyond Bloomsbury.
[f] Phil Sayers and Rikke Lundgreen, `Changing Places: Final
Activity Report', 5 November 2009, pp. 2, 3. How Changing Places
attracted new visitors to the museums involved and influenced museum
[g] `The Collection: Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans History
Month 2008', pp. 1, 3. Provides evidence that Changing Places
helped to attract new visitors to The Centre, Lincoln, as part of the LGBT
History Month programme.
[h] National Portrait Gallery Press Office, `News Release: Famous authors
create new identities for mystery portraits', 19 November 2011. Details
Bristol's contribution to Imagined Lives.
[i] Catherine Daunt, `Imagined Lives at Montacute', The National
Trust Bulletin, July 2010, p. 3. Explains the benefit of Imagined
Lives to National Trust collections.
[j] Visitor feedback on Dr Dent's lecture for Real and Imagined Lives,
M Shed, Bristol. How ongoing university involvement in the exhibition made
it more accessible to the public.