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,

For more information about partnering with the Bowes Museum, advice on potential internal collaborators and guidance for applications contact

Information for students:

The National Gallery, Scientific Department & Imperial College London:

Multimodal analytical imaging of Old Master Paintings: addressing the challenges of registration, mosaic construction and image resolution

Applications are invited for a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD studentship, to be undertaken at Imperial College London (Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department) and the National Gallery (Scientific Department). This studentship will be jointly supervised by Professor Pier Luigi Dragotti at Imperial College London (ICL) and Dr Catherine Higgitt at the National Gallery (NG). The studentship is for a three-year (full-time) project entitled ‘Multimodal analytical imaging of Old Master Paintings: addressing the challenges of registration, mosaic construction and image resolution’, to commence on 1 October 2019. The student may also apply to the Student Development Fund (see below) to allow a (remunerated) placement of up to 6 months duration at the National Gallery during the PhD to further develop and expand their skills. The student will spend concentrated periods of time both at Imperial College London and at the National Gallery. This is an exciting interdisciplinary project involving close collaboration between engineers with expertise in signal and image processing, conservation scientists, conservators and curators. The student will also have the opportunity to interact with researchers involved in an EPSRC-funded joint-research project between ICL, NG and University College London (

Summary of project:
In the art historical study of paintings and to inform their conservation, there is a long tradition of using a range of imaging techniques to improve understanding of an artist's creative process, working methods, palette and materials. These techniques range from visible images under different lighting or magnification, images acquired using different forms of radiation e.g. infrared reflectograms or X-radiographs, to image sets generated using new spectroscopic imaging methods like macro X-ray fluorescence scanning (MA-XRF) or hyperspectral imaging (HSI). However, to harness the wealth of information contained within these very large multi-modal datasets, an essential first step is to accurately align the images. Registration and mosaicking normally involves finding common, invariant features between images and aligning the images using these 'control points'. However, with paintings, each modality may contain both similar and unique features making registration particularly challenging. Various approaches have been developed for registration of multimodal data from paintings but may fail if the spatial resolution of the data differs (e.g. MA-XRF data) and are not automatic (important when handling very large HSI and MA-XRF datasets increasingly available in the field) nor invariant to geometric transformation and colour-inconsistency.

This project aims to facilitate processing and interpretation of multimodal datasets from paintings by developing new registration methods to automatically extract features common to different modalities that are resilient to variation in acquisition conditions, spatial resolution and geometric distortions, etc. The project will also develop methods to enhance the spatial resolutions of some of the modalities which normally have a resolution which is much smaller than that of the visible image and will achieve that by leveraging correlation among modalities. Performance will be bench-marked against current approaches. The optimised algorithms will both enhance spatial resolutions of low resolution modalities and automatically register and mosaic multimodal images and will be packaged as open-source user-friendly software tools to allow wide adoption by and adaptation for a variety of arts and humanities end-users, greatly facilitating use of the numerous and diverse technical images now generated in their research.

Such tools, besides facilitating registration specifically, will assist more in-depth data interpretation by identifying features unique to a modality which may relate to concealed/altered features in a painting. By improving our ability to extract and visualise information contained within multimodal image sets, this research opens up the possibility to gain unprecedented insights into the creation, history and condition of Old Master paintings whilst also offering the possibility of providing new ways to interact with art and to present it on modern media devices to provide new experiences. The methods will be applicable to a wide range of image modalities and will both improve on current practice and be an essential pre-requisite to the broader use of advanced signal processing methods in the cultural heritage sector in order to fully exploit the rich variety of digital data now being generated. The results obtained are expected to stimulate further broader exploration of such methods in the arts and humanities field.

This Collaborative Doctoral Partnership PhD studentship is funded by the AHRC. The full studentship award for students with UK residency* includes fees and a stipend of approximately £16,000 per annum plus approximately £500 pa. additional stipend payment for Collaborative Doctoral students for 3 years. In addition, the Student Development Fund (equivalent to 0.5 years of stipend payments) is also available to support the cost of training, work placements, and other development opportunities. Students with EU residency are eligible for a fees-only studentship award. International applicants are normally not eligible to apply for this studentship. The student will receive additional support towards further research expenses from The National Gallery over the course of the research studentship. When appropriate, further support to attend conferences will be provided by Imperial College London. Both partners and the CDP consortium will provide opportunities for training and career development.

*UK residency means having settled status in the UK that is no restriction on how long you can stay in the UK; and having been “ordinarily resident” in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship that is you must have been normally residing in the UK apart from temporary or occasional absences; and not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purposes of full-time education.

Applicants must have a good first degree (usually a minimum 2:1) or a Masters degree (or other equivalent experience) in Electrical/Electronic Engineering, Mathematics, Physics or related areas. They should be highly motivated individuals with a keen interest in conducting interdisciplinary research. The project would suit a candidate with an interest in developing cutting-edge scientific techniques and complex data processing methods to challenging questions such as those posed by cultural heritage sector. Students must also meet the eligibility requirements for Post Graduate Studies at Imperial College London.

Further information and application:

For informal enquiries, please contact the main supervisors Professor Pier Luigi Dragotti ( or Dr Catherine Higgitt (

Please click HERE to apply. The application should include a covering letter, and your CV.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to Mr Anderson Santos