Jan Marsh

Jan Marsh

Researcher (Later Victorian Catalogue)

Job description

I work as part of the team compiling full catalogue entries for the portraits in the Collection of later Victorian personalities – those who flourished between c. 1860 and c.1900.  Several hundred sitters are represented and we are tackling them in occupational groups.  The work involves examination of the portraits and extensive research into their production, history, provenance and position within the Collection; in addition for each sitter we compile iconographies in all media within and without the National Portrait Gallery. This dual research process provides a unique scholarly perspective of portraiture in the later nineteenth century.  See Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue. In 2012 I prepared a case display to mark the centenary of the untimely death of composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, and am planning a similar display of works in the Collection about the life of Jane Morris, who died in January 1914.


After studying English literature at Cambridge I took a post-graduate course in social studies at LSE, then a DPhil exploring poetry and culture 1900-1914 at the University of Sussex.  My first book was a critical biography of Edward Thomas, followed by the cultural history of the late Victorian Back-to-the-Land movement, and then Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, a keynote inquiry into gender relations in the nineteenth-century art world. This led me to co-curating the exhibition Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists (1995-6) and to major biographies of Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 2003-4 I held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship at the National Portrait Gallery, researching the representation of men and women of African ancestry in the 19th century, in preparation for the exhibition Black Victorians (Manchester 2005, Birmingham 2006).  Along the way I published a biography of Jane & May Morris and The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal (alongside an exhibition of her drawings).  My latest project involved co-editing the Collected Letters of Jane Morris. I am current president of the William Morris Society, a trustee of the William Morris Gallery and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In these capacities I have written and lectured on William Morris’s lifelong relationship with reading, writing and printing books; and am involved in a current endeavour to research and present the work of May Morris.

Research interests

The visual representation of ‘Black Europeans’ of African ancestry from the medieval to modern eras remains a major interest, so I have been delighted by the long-term loans to the Gallery of the portraits of Ayuba Sulieman Diallo and Ira Aldridge. In 2015 I was a panellist at Black Portraitures II, a major conference organised by New York University in Florence, Italy. In 2015 I co-curated the first solo exhibition of works by Marie Spartali Stillman, seen at Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington DE, together with a full catalogue. Recently I also presented papers at the Ruskin the Educator conference at Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge (on Sesame & Lilies) and on at the Julia Margaret Cameron bi-centenary conference at the University of Portsmouth. For more information see janmarsh.blogspot.

Recent Publications

Jan Marsh & Frank C.Sharp (eds.), Collected Letters of Jane Morris, Boydell & Brewer, 2012.

Jan Marsh and Peter Funnell, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery published in association with the National Trust, 2011.

Jan Marsh, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, National Portrait Gallery, (re-issued 2011)

To see more of Jan’s research activities, visit her academia.edu page