Elizabeth Heath

Elizabeth Heath

Assistant Curator (Research)

Job description

As Assistant Curator (Research) I work part-time on the Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue, and online resource which continues the Gallery’s series of printed period catalogues. As part of a small team, I conduct in-depth research into portraits in the collection and also compile comprehensive iconographies listing all known likenesses of an individual in public and private collections. As well as writing catalogue entries for a variety of sitters - including Frederic Leighton and Henry Morton Stanley and Ellen Terry - I provide administrative support for the project. This includes frequently liaising with the external Editor and other Gallery departments. My role also provides the opportunity to participate in related academic activities. Resulting from my research into portraits of Octavia Hill, for example, I recently delivered a paper on the subject at a centenary conference held at Sutton House (Sept. 2012).

Since January 2013 I have also provided maternity cover for the 19th century Assistant Curator.  Central to this role is the organization of temporary exhibits for the Gallery’s changing schedule of room displays.  So far these include William Nicholson: Radical Woodcuts and Struck & Cast: nineteenth-century portrait medals.  I also conduct research into the collection and assist the 19th century Curator when appropriate.  


After graduating from the University of Reading with a BA (Hons) in English and History of Art, I completed an MA in 19th century British Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art. My first museum role was at Leighton House Museum, where I worked as Curatorial Assistant. I joined the National Portrait Gallery as Assistant Curator (Research) in 2008, on a part time basis. Alongside this position was employed as Project Curator in the Prints & Drawings department at the British Museum (2012). I have previously worked as Catalogue Co-ordinator for The Public Catalogue Foundation, during which time I produced the London North and East and National Maritime Museum catalogues.

In October 2013 I plan to embark upon a funded CDA studentship working with the University of Sussex and the National Portrait Gallery.  The project will facilitate in-depth study of the Scharf Archive and aims to investigate the professional practice of Sir George Scharf, the NPG’s first Director, with regards to the early years of the Gallery and the development of the collection.   

Research interests

My MA studies covered developments in British art across the 1800s, with a particular focus on the Aesthetic Movement.   In my dissertation I considered changing modes of pictorial representation in relation to a contemporaneous interest in the nature of perception and experience.  I have been fortunate that subsequent research positions have enabled me to consolidate my specialism in the 19th century and to effectively situate works produced during this period within a social and historical framework.  Recently my interests have expanded to include the work of British artists operating in the early decades of the 1900s.

Recent Publications

‘Octavia Hill: The Reluctant Sitter’ (a chapter in a collection of essays on Octavia Hill, published by the Institute of Historical Research, forthcoming 2014).