Dr Mechthild Fend


18th- and 19th-century French visual culture and art theory

Email: m.fend@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Mechthild Fend

Mechthild Fend studied at Hamburg University and completed her PhD with the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt in 1998, where she was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow. She had a Getty postdoctoral fellowship in 2000/2001 and was a research scholar at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin from 2001-2005. She spend a year as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton before joining the UCL History of Art Department in 2006. Her research has focused on issues of gender, the history and representation of the body, art and science as well as the historiography of art history. The volume 'Männlichkeit im Blick. Visuelle Inszenierungen seit der Frühen Neuzeit' (Köln: Böhlau, 2004), co-edited with Marianne Koos, is a collection of essays that look at the representation of masculinity from Donatello’s David to contemporary performance art. The monograph that developed from her dissertation 'Grenzen der Männlichkeit. Der Androgyn in der französischen Kunst und Kunsttheorie 1750-1830' (Berlin: Reimer, 2003) studies androgynous masculinities in the period of the French Revolution focussing on artists such as Jacques-Louis David and Anne-Louis Girodet. A French translation 'Les limites de la masculinité' was published with La Decouverte in autumn 2011.

Her current research project deals with various aspects of skin and skin colour, their history, representation or literal making in paintings, prints and drawings. Her book entitled 'Fleshing out Surfaces. Skin in French art and medicine, 1650-1860' is forthcoming with Manchester University Press. It looks at the art literature concerned with fleshtones and skin, medical definitions of skin and the sense of touch, and at the rendering of skin in the portraiture of Fragonard, David, Benoist, Girodet and Ingres. Further publications related to that topic include the essay 'Bodily and Pictorial Surfaces: Skin in French Art and Medicine, 1790-1860'. In: Art History 28, 2005, pp. 311-339, and a book co-edited with Daniela Bohde: 'Weder Haut noch Fleisch. Das Inkarnat in der Kunstgeschichte', (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2007). This book is the first systematic study on fleshtones in art, spanning from the gradual introduction of oil paint in the times of Van Eyck to the silk-screens by Andy Warhol. The eight essays consider the ways in which artists used colour and other materials to render skin, explore a range of art theoretical reflections on the visual representation of skin or flesh and link this to issues of the history of the body. She has recently also worked on medical illustrations of skin and skin diseases, in particular on dermatological atlases and wax moulages.

Together with Petra Lange-Berndt she ran the AHRC Research Network
'The Culture of Preservation. The afterlife of specimens since the 18th century'.

Mechthild Fend is interested in supervising PhD students in the research areas sketched above.

Current PhD students:

Kelly Freeman: The Manifold Form: Analogies of Bone and Iron in the Skeletopoeia and Architecture of nineteenth-century Natural History and Anatomy Museums

Meghan Gilbride: Memory Migrations. Visualising personal narratives of political conflict and exile in animated film

Rebecca Whiteley: Illustration in Early Modern Midwifery Manuals in England and France

Completed PhD students:
Gemma Angel: In the Skin: An Ethnographic-Historical Approach to a Museum Collection of Preserved Tattoos (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award).

Recent book and articles include:

'Flesh-tones, Skin-colour and the Eighteenth-Century Color Print', in Aesthetics of the Flesh, ed. by Felix Ensslin and Charlotte Klink (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2015), pp. 203-227.

'Marie-Guillelmine Benoist's "Portrait d'une négresse" and the Visibility of Skin Colour', in Probing the Skin. Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone, ed. by Caroline Rosenthal and Dirk Vanderbeke (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing), pp.  192-210.

Plumes et Pinceaux. Les femmes et les discours sur l'art en Europe (1750-1850), ed. with Anne Lafont and Melissa Hyde, Paris: Presses du réel/INHA, 2012.

'Portraying Skin Disease: Robert Carswell's dermatological watercolours', in A Medical History of Skin, ed. by Kevin Siena and Jonathan Reinarz (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2013), pp. 147-164.

'Skin portraiture "painted from nature": Ferdinand Herbra's "Atlas of Skin Diseases" (1856-76)', in Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine, ed. by Michael Sappol (New York: Blast, 2012), pp. 122-126.

'Toile nerveuse. Rendre la peau dans les Portraits de fantaisie de Fragonard'., in Cultures de cour – cultures du corps, ed. by Catherine Lanoë, Matieu da Vinha et Bruono Laurioux (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2011), pp. 169-184.

'Haut wie weicher Marmor. Die Frauenporträts von Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres'. In Ähnlichkeit und Entstellung, Oliver Jehle, Sabine Slanina (eds.), Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2010, pp. 95-112.

'Emblems of Durability. Preserves, Tattoos and Photographs' In Performance Research, Vol. 14, No. 4, 2009. Special Issue: Transplantations, eds. Ric Allsopp and Phillip Warnell, pp. 45-52.

'Bodily and Pictorial Surfaces: Skin in French Art and Medicine, 1790-1860'. In Art History 28, 2005, pp. 311-339.


'Allegory and Fantasy: Portraiture Beyond Resemblance (Review of Sarah Betzer, Ingres and the Studio. Women, Painting, History and Melissa Percival, Fragonard and the Fantasy Figure, in Oxford Art Journal 26, 2013, pp. 265-267.

Book review of Melanie Ulz: 'Auf dem Schlachtfeld des Empire'. In Sehepunkte 9, 2009, Nr. 6.

Exhibition review of: Figures du corps. Une leçon d'anatomie aux beaux-arts. Paris, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris. 21.10.2008-04.01.2009. In ArtHist, Dec 2008.

Book review of Todd Porterfield and Susan L. Siegfried: ,Staging Empire: Napoleon, Ingres, and David'. In Art Bulletin 40, June 2008, pp. 298-300.

Full list of publications