Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme

A consortium of the National Gallery and the Bowes Museum has been awarded three doctoral studentships per year over four years as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme. Each institution is able to offer studentships in partnership with higher education institutions, to enable students to study for a PhD at a UK university.

The National Gallery and the Bowes Museum have substantial synergies in their research interests, which arise not only from the fact that they both hold significant collections of Old Master paintings, but also from shared interests in the research themes:

  • Buying, Collecting, Display. This strand concentrates on the histories of the art market, as well as of picture collections and the tastes, economics and politics that lay behind them. It also concerns audiences for art (including museum visitors today) and the histories of the institutions themselves. It provides a context for collections that supports new approaches for presentation to the public.
  • The Meaning of Making. This strand seeks to use object-based research, combining the disciplines of art history, science and conservation, to contextualise technical study of collections by situating it within a larger art historical discourse, investigating notions of authorship, collaboration, copying, design, inspiration and their re-use/reinterpretation over time. It is a distinctive aspect of Museum/Gallery research.
  • Art and Religion. This strand focuses on the iconography, functions and context of Christian art. A high percentage of works in collections of Western European art are of religious subjects, nearly all of them Christian, reflecting the fact that, after classical antiquity, Christianity became the predominant power shaping European culture between the 13th and 19th centuries. The research addresses how and why these sacred works of art were made, to explore what they might have meant to their original viewers and to discover what they mean to beholders today.

The consortium builds on these common interests that are shared between the National Gallery and the Bowes Museum as well as more generally in many museums, galleries and HEIs. For the National Gallery, the consortium is also an important element in the Gallery’s national strategy.

The specific themes above are not intended to be prescriptive but they serve as an effective expression of the consortium’s areas of interest, giving a framework for collaborations with HEIs and other research organisations, and for potential shared studentships within the consortium.  For examples of current National Gallery doctoral studentships, see the Gallery's research partnerships. For more general information, find out about the scope of research at the National Gallery and the Bowes Museum.

Each studentship will be jointly supervised by a member of the consortium partner’s staff and an academic from a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI). The HEI administers the studentship, receiving funds from the AHRC for fees and to cover the student’s maintenance. The consortium partner provides additional financial support to cover travel and related costs in carrying out research.

More information about Collaborative Doctoral Awards is available on the AHRC website 

Information for universities:

Proposals for new studentships are developed by National Gallery or Bowes Museum staff (as co-supervisors) together with a named university partner (as principal supervisor) and are chosen on their academic strengths and clear support for the National Gallery’s or the Bowes Museum’s research objectives. We welcome expressions of interest and project ideas from any UK university. The deadline for applications for the next round of projects will be late 2018.

For more information about partnering with the National Gallery, advice on potential internal collaborators and guidance for applications contact Marika Spring, headofresearch@ng-london.org.uk.

For more information about partnering with the Bowes Museum, advice on potential internal collaborators and guidance for applications contact Adrian.jenkins@thebowesmuseum.org.uk.


Information for students:

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD Studentship in collaboration with The National Gallery and the University of Leeds

The School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds and The National Gallery are pleased to announce a funded PhD studentship for doctoral research, awarded under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

Collecting Continental Old Masters at Harewood House, Yorkshire: conflicts and convergences over contemporary art and national heritage and European and American cultural relations in the British art world, 1880-1950

The proactive collecting practices of Henry Viscount Lascelles (later 6th Earl of Harewood), of Old Masters during and after WWI is an extraordinary episode in the history of collecting in Britain. The 6th Earl's acquisitions are significant in a number of ways. In the first instance, he was acquiring art at a time when many country-house owners were disposing of individual masterpieces or their entire art collections; the extensive run of purchases for Chesterfield House, London, and subsequently for Harewood House, Yorkshire, of important works by early Italian masters such as Bellini and Cima as well as later painters including Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and El Greco illustrates the breadth and depth of the 6th Earl's collecting activities.

Whilst some scholarly attention has been paid to the patterns of disposal of Old Master paintings from aristocratic collections, a process that started with the high profile sales from Hamilton Palace in 1882, and was reinforced in the aftermath of the Great War when many country houses and their London town-house equivalents were sold or demolished, little scholarly attention has been paid to the acquisition of Old Masters in British private collections during the first half of the 20th century. The 6th Earl's collecting activities were highly distinctive and challenge the conventional understanding that the traffic in 'Old Master' paintings was exclusively one-way, from Britain to the USA, in the period. The research project will complement the work being undertaken on the development of national and regional museum collections in the period 1880s–1950s and offers the opportunity to reconsider the British market for Old Master paintings against the broader landscape of the 'heritage debate' and the increasing dominance of the notion of cultural heritage exemplified by newly-established instruments such as the NACF and Export Review Committee.

To apply: 

Apply via the University of Leeds website – deadline: 5pm Friday 10 May 2019

See University of Leeds scholarships – where an application form for PhD study is available.


Information for students:

AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral PhD Studentship with the University of Bristol and the National Gallery

New research on the history and technology of materials in paintings and other cultural heritage artefacts using advanced mass spectrometry techniques.

The scholarly study of paintings and other artworks involves research into an artist's creative processes, the nature of the materials and techniques used and the current condition of objects resulting from natural deterioration. Such studies benefit enormously from chemical analysis, wherein small samples of paint are physically removed from artefacts in order that the chemistry can be assessed in relation to the aforementioned factors. The organic components are of particular interest and can include a wide range of natural products, such as: oils, waxes, resins and proteins, all of which have the potential to profoundly influence the appearance of a work, its current condition and the planning of conservation treatments. These organic materials can be original components, such as paint constituents (binder, colorant or other additives) or later additions (e.g. repairs or retouchings, varnishes or other surface coatings). The paint samples taken from valuable works of art are typically very small and limited in number, so it is essential to extract as much information as possible. The chemical analysis of organic components is challenging for a number of reasons: (i) The complexity of the materials themselves, which often necessitates the detection of characteristic 'marker components' to identify the material (or obtain precise source or species information or the exact methods of production); (ii) The organic material(s) of interest will generally be quite minor components of the overall paint sample, and (iii) The heterogeneous nature of the samples and age of the artefact, which can often lead to the alteration of the organic materials via complex degradation processes. Hence, to obtain the maximum amount of chemical information from the minimum amount of paint it is important to use highly sensitive & specific analytical techniques.

The advertised studentship offers the successful candidate the opportunity to help answer both art historical and conservation-related questions using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry (MS) approaches. High resolution mass spectrometry using either Orbitrap MS or Q-TOFMS instruments offers substantial advantages over the current instrumentation typically used by heritage scientists. The studentship brings together researchers from the University of Bristol and the National Gallery and will use these new technologies to explore question relating to: (i) The detection of specific organic materials; (ii)The identification of the biological (or geological) source of organic materials; (iii)The status of organic materials (whether original additives to the paint or contaminants from a
later conservation intervention). Achieving this will involve refining analytical protocols based on advanced instrumentation using reference samples selected from the extensive collection of natural products held within the National Gallery scientific department. The analytical protocols developed will then be applied to real problems within the cultural heritage sector using authentic case
studies, selected from on-going projects in the art-historical study or conservation of paintings from the National Gallery collection.

As with all postgraduate students enrolled at the University of Bristol the student will be supported by the Bristol Doctoral College. The College supports students in a wide variety of ways at all stages of their professional and personal development during their studies.

The successful student will receive a stipend of £15,009 p.a. plus £550 additional payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students. Tuition fees are also covered by the award. The student will receive additional support towards further research expenses from The National Gallery over the course of the research studentship.
Candidates should possess a degree in a relevant subject area, such as a 2:1 or higher in chemistry, or a related discipline aligned to the studentship. Students must also meet the eligibility requirements of the UK Research Council for graduate students.

To apply: 

Apply via the University of Bristol website – deadline: 10 May 2019

Informal enquiries should be directed to:
Professor Richard Evershed: Email: r.p.evershed@bristol.ac.uk; Telephone: 0117 9287671 or

Dr David Peggie: Email: david.peggie@ng-london.org.uk; Telephone: Tel: 020 7747 2825