As Curator of Eighteenth-Century Portraits I am responsible for the display and interpretation of the Gallery’s collections for the period 1715-1837. This involves managing the Eighteenth-Century and Regency galleries in London and the displays and interactive portrait galleries at Beningbrough Hall and Gardens, near York, which is one of the National Portrait Gallery’s regional partnerships with the National Trust. My day-to-day work as a curator includes research and fundraising for new eighteenth-century acquisitions and providing guidance on eighteenth-century portraiture for private individuals, government bodies and other organisations. I have spent the last few years completing the first academic study on the history of extra-illustration and portrait-print collecting in the long eighteenth century, this is published by the Huntington Library Press in Spring 2017. I am contributing to the research and development of an exhibition on the Art of Abolition which will take place in 2022.
I studied History of Art and French at Sussex University, before taking an MA in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art and completing a PhD at the University of Manchester in 1998. I worked as an assistant curator and curator at the British Museum and Museum of London before joining the National Portrait Gallery as Eighteenth Century Curator in 2001. Since then I have been responsible for refurbishing and redisplaying the Regency galleries (2003) as well as for developing ‘Making Faces – Eighteenth Century Style’ at Beningbrough Hall. This is a series of interactive galleries which use portraiture, hands-on exhibits and digital material to explore portraiture as a business in the eighteenth century. At the National Portrait Gallery, I have also co-curated two major exhibitions, Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings (2008) and Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance (2010). In pursuing my research into extra-illustration and portrait print collecting, I have been awarded several fellowships, including, a Huntington Library Fellowship (2001) and a Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust (2008-10). I am also a Trustee of the Wordsworth Trust and was the External Examiner for the M.A. in Museum Studies at the University of Leeds (2012-15).
I am interested in a wide range of areas in the social and cultural history of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. My academic work focuses on gender, sociability, collecting and graphic culture between 1770-1850. I also have an ongoing interest in female portraiture and intellectual life in the eighteenth century, the work of Thomas Lawrence and his contemporaries and the commercial structures of the art world and print markets between 1700-1850. I am also beginning to explore radical portraits and propaganda in the late eighteenth century. In addition, I am interested in Sir Joseph Banks as a patron of art and a subject of portrayal; I am one of the committee members of an AHRC Funded Network grant project: ‘Joseph Banks and the Re-Making of the Indo-Pacific World’ and chaired a workshop on ‘Science, Self-fashioning and Representation in Joseph Banks’s Circles’ in early 2017.
Over the last few years I have been concentrating on completing my book Facing the Text: Extra-illustration, Print Culture and Society in Britain, ca. 1769-1840, May 2017. Other recent publications are Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, with A. Cassandra Albinson and Peter Funnell, Yale University Press, 2010; Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings, with Elizabeth Eger, National Portrait Gallery, 2008 and the guide book to Beningbrough Hall, with Roger Carr-Whitworth, National Trust, 2006.
View Banks project here