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A fully-funded PhD studentship in partnership with Birkbeck, University of London, 2016-2020.

Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

The National Gallery offers a small number of Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentships, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and run in partnership with higher education institutions. These studentships focus on specific themes relevant to the Gallery's collection and wider research themes.

Research project

This project, in collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London, looked afresh at the role of women as disseminators of knowledge about the Old Masters. While the National Gallery’s first Director, Charles Eastlake, and his colleagues produced scholarly catalogues aimed at professionals and connoisseurs, women in his network disseminated information about its pictures in more demotic, creative ways. It exploreD the social and cultural history of the Gallery’s present-day efforts to democratise access to its collections and reach new audiences by examining the hitherto understudied critical and art-historical writings of 19th-century women, which typically had a more popular reach than that of their male counterparts while speaking to specialists, then and now.


One of the exciting outcomes to emerge from this National Gallery/Birkbeck Collaborative Doctoral Partnership was the conference, 'Knowing “as much of art as the cat”?: Nineteenth-Century Women Writers on the Old Masters (2017)'. This international one-day event, organised by Dr Susanna Avery-Quash (Senior Research Curator in the History of Collecting, National Gallery) and Professor Hilary Fraser (Dean of Arts & Geoffrey Tillotson Chair of Nineteenth-Century Studies, Birkbeck) called attention to the numerous and neglected contributions by women to the development of art history during the discipline’s formative years. With an emphasis on English-speaking women as disseminators of knowledge about Old Master paintings and historic painting techniques during the Victorian era, the conference brought together scholars from literary, art historical and museum backgrounds, with both Victorian and Renaissance specialisms, foregrounding the rich interdisciplinary nature of the topic.

Conference Programme (PDF, 123 KB)

Paper Abstracts and Speaker Biographies (PDF, 156)

Read the Nineteenth-Century Women Writers on the Old Masters: Conference Report [external link]