Tarnya Cooper

Tarnya Cooper

Curatorial Director

Job description

The role of Curatorial Director involves overseeing the work of the whole curatorial department, archive and library with a focus on developing the interpretation strategy for a major redevelopment and renewal of the Galleries.  I am also a member of the Executive Planning team who lead on all aspects of Gallery management and financial planning.  I was the Principal Investigator a major seven year research project Making Art in Tudor Britain which used technical analysis to explore the materials, production, influences and patronage of Tudor and Jacobean portraiture.  For more information see: Making Art in Tudor Britain.


I joined the Gallery in 2002 after working at University College London where I both taught art history and worked as a museum curator.  I completed my D. Phil in 2002 at the University of Sussex focusing on memento mori and sixteenth century British portraiture. I was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship in British Art by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in 2010 which allowed me to complete my book Citizen Portrait.

Research Interests

The broad span of my research interests focuses on British artistic practice in the period 1540 to 1620 and I have worked on collecting, patronage, artistic production, portraits of Elizabeth I and members of her court.  In particular, my recent work has focused on portraits of the Tudor middling sort, including merchants, lawyers, artisans and intellectuals exploring the relationship between representation, social status, class and spiritual intention.  

Recent Publications

Painting in England: artistic practice, patronage and display (with Maurice Howard, Aviva Burnstock and Edward Town) published by the British Academy, for OUP 2015; Citizen Portrait: Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite of Tudor and Jacobean England and Wales, published for the Paul Mellon Centre of Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2012; Searching for Shakespeare (sole editor and essay contributor), National Portrait Gallery exhibition catalogue, 2006; ‘Making Art in Tudor Britain: New research on Tudor Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery', The British Art Journal, Vol. ix, no.3, pp.3-11,  A Guide to Tudor & Jacobean Portraits2008; Elizabeth I & Her People2013; The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered2014.

For a full list of my publications see here.

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