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Dr. Tarnya Cooper

Dr. Tarnya Cooper

Curatorial Director

My Posts:

Curatorial Director

Job description

The role of Chief Curator involves overseeing the work of the whole curatorial department, archive and library.  I also fulfil the role of Sixteenth Century curator and manage the display of the collection in the Tudor Gallery and displays at Montacute House in Somerset.  I lead a major seven year research project Making Art in Tudor Britain which uses 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 am currently curating an exhibition on Elizabeth I and her People to take place at the Gallery from October 2013.


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 (see below).  

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

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

For a full list of my publications see here.