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Art History at Newcastle

The study of art history continues to be an integral part of Fine Art at Newcastle University. Art historians support students’ art practice with their wide range of research specialisms and expertise.

Art History at Newcastle

In the 1950s, the Fine Art Department was employing Courtauld educated art historians such as George Knox (1922-2015) and Ralph Holland (1917-2012) to deliver lectures and seminars. They contributed to exhibitions and provided individual tutorials to students researching their dissertations.  They worked alongside artists such as Victor Pasmore (1908-1988) and Richard Hamilton (1922-2011). These artists were making work, creating important and ground-breaking exhibitions, giving lectures and running seminars, and sharing their own specific interests in contemporary art and culture.  This environment, according to Professor Lawrence Gowing (1918-1991), writing on ‘Ideals and Experiments in the Fine Arts’ in the Universities Quarterly in 1956, gave Newcastle a “special characteristic” where artists and art historians influenced each other and formed a “community of interest”, in an environment where research was a “continual condition” and was to be made available to all who could use it.

Art historians have continued to be at the core of this community of interest, supporting students’ art practice with their wide range of specialisms and expertise.

Over the art school’s lifetime, the teaching of art history and art practice has been complemented and supported by the acquisition of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and other objects. These not only chart developments in art production over centuries but also reflect the art school’s long history and the changing nature of its art education provision.  These now make up the Hatton Gallery Collection. This includes the Hatton Gallery Archive, which holds a wealth of information on the gallery's acquisitions, together with records on the Hatton Gallery’s exhibition history.  The Hatton Gallery Collection and Archive are situated in the Fine Art building and provide a rich source of material for art historical study. 

Art History teaching today

We do not offer a stand-alone BA in Art History. Today, our Art Historians primarily contribute to teaching in Fine Art, and they also contribute to the faculty's Combined Honours BA course, where Art History can be studied as part of a student's degree. 

As well as contributing to BA and MFA teaching, our Art Historians supervise PhD students - either as primary supervisors, or as part of supervisory teams for practice-led PhDs.  They also are members of interdisciplinary supervisory teams, supporting students working, for example, in Geography, in Curating, Film and in Museum Studies.

Our Art Historians contribute substantially to our reputation, which is built on world-leading practice and research and which is made public in the form of exhibitions, installations, interventions, books and other publications.


This new seminar series offers a platform for engagement with research in history of art at a time when the discipline is undergoing change in response to issues of urgent significance, including intergenerational justice, colonial legacies, and environmental breakdown.  

These seminars will take place fortnightly on Wednesdays at 17.15 in the Seminar room, King Edward VII Building, Newcastle University, with refreshments available after each event, from 18.30.  

Arranged by Dr Olga Smith, ‘Art and Ecology’ is the topic for the inaugural series of seminars. This is a great opportunity to hear leading international and UK-based scholars present on subjects as diverse as the colours of the Anthropocene and art made by bowerbirds. The full schedule is attached below; further information for each talk will be circulated a week in advance.  

Most of the seminars are in-person events. Please note, however, that two of the events will use a hybrid format, as a virtual presentation presented the most sustainable option due to the distance of the speakers’ travel. To register for hybrid events please email the convenor Dr Olga Smith.

Semester Two, 2024. Art and Ecology 
  • January 31st.    Dr. C.C. McKee (Bryn Mawr College): ‘Que les fleurs ont fané: Botany and Imperial Loss in Post-Revolutionary Haiti’ 
  • February 14th.  Prof. Ysanne Holt (Northumbria University): ‘Centering the Peripheries: Art, Environment and the Anglo-Scottish borders’ 
  • February 28th.  Prof. Emily Gephart (Tufts University): ‘Cultivating Ecologies: Plants, People, Art’ (virtual) 
  • March 13th.      Dr. Kirsty Sinclair Dootson (UCL): ‘What Colour is the Anthropocene? Eco-Critical Histories of Modern Chromatism’ 
  • April 24th.        Dr. Nina Amstutz (University of Oregon): ‘Found Object: Multispecies Musings on Art and Evolution in Bowerbirds’ (virtual)  
  • May 1st.           Dr. Siobhan Angus (Carleton University): ‘Camera Geologica: An Elemental History of Photography’