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Peter Funnell

Peter Funnell

Head of Research and Senior Curator

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Job description

I combine two roles at the Gallery. As Curator of Nineteenth-Century Portraits I am responsible for the Gallery’s permanent Victorian display and for the Gallery’s collection at Bodelwyddan Castle.  I also devote a lot of time to temporary exhibitions, either curating them myself or working with external curators.  Day-to-day curatorial work includes making acquisitions and advising outside bodies and scholars.  I became Head of Research Programmes eight years ago with responsibility for co-ordinating and promoting research at the Gallery. As such I am the Gallery’s main point of liaison with research institutions such as universities and funding bodies like the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


I studied English and the History of Art at University College London and took a doctorate in the History of Art at Oxford University.  I had a year-long fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art and worked in the United States on a major exhibition and educational project on William Wordsworth and English Romanticism in the mid-1980s.  After two years teaching back in the United Kingdom I joined the National Portrait Gallery in 1990 where, along with my other curatorial and research work, I directed the research of 10,000 portrait illustrations for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  I am a member of a number of outside advisory committees and became a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2011.  

Research interests

My doctoral thesis was on the connoisseur, collector and theorist Richard Payne Knight and I continue to be interested in British art theory and the London art world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,  Since joining the Gallery I have specialised in nineteenth-century portraiture across all media and have published and lectured on the representation of masculinity in British portraiture.  Other research areas include the history of museum display and I am becoming increasingly interested in art and the British Empire.

Recent Publications

Recent publications include Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, with A Cassandra Albinson and Lucy Peltz, Yale University Press, 2010 and ‘Portraits, Power and Gender’ in Portraits and Power, People, Politics and Structures, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze, 2010, accompanying a contemporary art exhibition for which I was an advisor and selector.  In 2011 I co-authored the Gallery’s Guide to Victorian & Edwardian Portraits with Jan Marsh.