Ruth Brimacombe

Ruth Brimacombe

Collections Curator 19th Century

Job description

As Research Coordinator, I help maintain and develop the Gallery’s academic activity as an accredited Independent Research Organisation (IRO). Working closely with Peter Funnell, Head of Research Programmes, I am responsible for sustaining a lively research forum within the Gallery and for building the Gallery’s links with individual scholars, academic institutions and funding bodies. This involves supporting the Gallery’s established research projects, including its participation in the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme (Arts and Humanities Council), as well as generating new ideas for research initiatives and academic collaborations. I also help colleagues across the Gallery prepare funding bids for research proposals, and organise the series of Staff Research Seminars that runs twice a year.


I joined the National Portrait Gallery as Assistant Curator, 19th Century in 2010, and was appointed in addition Associate Curator (Research Coordinator) in 2011. On returning from maternity leave in 2013, I chose to concentrate on the latter role.  As an Assistant Curator, I curated several room displays including Victorian Masquerade, Beautiful Souls; Diplomatic Dignitaries; Viceroys of India:  Peace ridiculed: caricatures by Honoré Daumier; Herbert Morrison: The cockney socialist; a small exhibition entitled Queens in Waiting: Charlotte & Victoria and Charles Dickens: Life & Legacy, which marked the bicentennial anniversary of the celebrated author’s birth.

My academic studies began with a BA (Hons) English Degree at King’s College London. I then completed an MA in Victorian Studies at Birkbeck College London, as well as a Master of Art Curatorship and a PhD in Art History at the University of Melbourne in Australia.  I was formerly a Junior and Post-doctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Yale Centre for British Art; and a Leverhulme Fellow in the History of British Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in 2008.  I am on the committee of the AAH Museum & Exhibition Group.

Research interests

My doctoral thesis is entitled Imperial Avatars: Art, India and the Prince of Wales 1875-6. It explores the work of the artists and photographers who accompanied the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) on his royal tour of India in the late nineteenth-century. My research interests continue to focus on the art and visual culture associated with the British Empire in the nineteenth century (particularly in Australia, India and Canada); royal portraiture; artist-reporters working for the illustrated press; the relationship between mass media and portraiture, and the transnational exchange of the British portrait.

Recent Publications

‘The Imperial Avatar in the Imagined Landscape: The Virtual Dynamics of the Prince of Wales’s Tour of India in 1875-6’ in Virtual Victorians: Networks, Connections, Technologies, Veronica Alfano and Andrew Stauffer (eds), Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 and the digital annex.