Personal profile

Research overview

I am a historian of modern art, and a historian and theorist of art history. I'm currently working on a book on David Hockney and painterly naturalism, developing longstanding research interests in form and representation, neglected aspects of modernist painting, and new ways of writing art history.

My most recent book, Interpreting Art (UCL Press, 2022), gives a new take on the practice of art history. There are many 'theories and methods' books, histories of art writing, and 'how to look' guides, but these tend to be divided up according to standard historical moments or familiar 'methods'. Interpreting Art instead examines general features of interpretation in the history of art across times, places, and schools of thought. The book is available fully open access from the UCL Press site. (Hard copies are also available from the UCL site and in North America from the University of Chicago Press).

Other essays have discussed aspects of the practical, theoretical, and material conditions of art writing in more detail:

- Description and close looking (‘Close Looking and Conviction’Art History, 2017)

- The role of aesthetics and the aesthetic (‘The Fear of Aesthetics in Art and Literary Theory’New Literary History, 2017)

- The history and practice of peer review in art history and the humanities ('Peer Review in Art History', Burlington Magazine, 2019)

- Perceptual plasticity (‘On Perception’ (co-authored with Bence Nanay), in A Companion to Arthur C. Danto, 2022)

My previous book, Art and Form: From Roger Fry to Global Modernism (Penn State University Press, 2019), gives a historical account of the central place of form and formalism in modernist culture. Recovering formalism’s emphasis on contact and communication – as opposed to ‘art for art’s sake’ escapism - the book explores connections to the histories of connoisseurship, art criticism, aesthetics, art education, design theory, colonial and anti-colonial art theory, and (through to the present) ‘global modernism’. The introduction (uncorrected proof) can be read here.

Form and post-impressionism have also been discussed in:

- ‘Postimpressionism: Universal, British, Global’, Art History, 2023

- ‘Formalism: Problematic, Inevitable, Post’, in The Blackwell Companion to the Theories and Methods of Art History (forthcoming, 2023)

‘The Significance of Form’Nonsite, 2017

- '"With an Almost Pathetic Fatality Doing What is Right”: Late Sickert and his Critics’, Art History, 2014

At St Andrews I teach courses on art writing, on approaches to the history and theory of art, on modern art in Britain, and on global modernism (a kind of critical survey course of formerly non-canonical modernisms around the world). Beyond St Andrews I am an editorial board member of Art History and a former member of the Executive Steering Committee of the British Association for Modernist Studies (2016-19).

Profile Keywords

Modernism; modern art in Britain; art theory and aesthetics; twentieth-century and contemporary art writing; contemporary art in relation to modernism

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