The Writing Art History series has been a central part of the Research Forum’s programme this academic year, considering the changing face of art history, and the role of the art historian. It has also explored different definitions and functions of art history, from the assessment of ancient sculpture to the study of contemporary art. The Frank Davis lectures in the Autumn of 2007 were given under this title, with Professors Amelia Jones, Alex Potts, Paul Crossley and Jas Elsner presenting a wide range of subjects. From Paul Crossley’s hugely entertaining trip through the methodological changes that he has witnessed during his career in medieval art history, to Amelia Jones’s call for the writing of art history that reveals the historian’s investment in the art objects under analysis, these lectures demonstrated the ways in which art history is constantly changing and challenging.

the courtauld generations

The theme of Writing Art History continued in the Spring term. Panel discussions sponsored by the Friends and entitled Courtauld Generations reflected on the changing trends and personalities of The Courtauld itself. Professor Griselda Pollock, who gave the first lecture in the Writing Art History series in May 2007, on ‘The Virtual Feminist Museum’, returned in Spring 2008 as a participant in the first of these round table discussions. Split into three historical periods from the 1960s to the present, these discussions featured former students and lecturers who provided fascinating insights into the ways in which The Courtauld’s own traditions are relatively recent, and surprisingly malleable, with personal anecdotes mixing with ideological debate on the methods of teaching, talking and writing art history.

For the next academic year, the Writing Art History theme will continue through conferences and lectures. A seminar group of 20 scholars has been set up, which will meet once a term to discuss research, with a view to presenting this work at a conference in 2009. The range of activity under the Writing Art History banner has provided a chance for discussion both within and beyond The Courtauld’s research community.

Dr Catherine Grant, Research Forum Post-Doctoral Fellow 2007