Dr Richard Taws

Reader in the History of Art

Email: r.taws@ucl.ac.uk

Richard Taws teaching

Richard Taws teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art, with a particular interest in the visual culture of the French Revolution and its aftermath. He taught previously at McGill University, Canada, and has been a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-7), a Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (2010), and a Visiting Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center, New York (2014). He is a member of the editorial board of Art History and the current recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize (2013-15).

Richard’s recent research focuses on everyday, ephemeral and obsolete forms of visual culture and related issues to do with time, materiality and value in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His first book, The Politics of the Provisional: Art and Ephemera in Revolutionary France (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), discusses a range of multiple, mobile, and often short-lived objects made in France in the 1790s, as well as images that referred to conditions of transience, fragility or incompletion. These ranged from revolutionary paper money—the assignat—to trompe-l’oeil representations of the Revolution’s paper debris, from temporary festival installations in plaster and wood to relics of the demolished Bastille. The book argues that thinking about material durability was one of the key ways in which both revolutionaries and those who opposed the Revolution conceptualised duration, and that it was crucial to how they imagined the Revolution’s transformative role in history. An article derived from this project, on assignats and post-revolutionary memory, published in the Oxford Art Journal, won the 2011 Max Nänny Article Prize, awarded every three years by the International Association of Word and Image Studies. The publication of this book was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by a Millard Meiss Publication Grant from the College Art Association.

More broadly, Richard’s work addresses histories and theories of media and technology, the social and political stakes of print culture, the relation between images and concepts of historical time, and the entanglement of artistic and non-art objects in the fifty years either side of 1800. In this vein, he has also written recently on subjects including anachronism and collecting at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, eighteenth-century caricature, printed and photographic representations of nineteenth-century royal impostors, optical telegraphy, and Nadar's interest in Giovanni Caselli's 'pantelegraph', a forerunner of the fax machine. He is currently working on a new book, Time Machines: Art, History, and Technology in Post-Revolutionary France, and editing, with Genevieve Warwick, a forthcoming special issue of Art History on art and technology in Early Modern Europe.

Richard would be interested to hear from potential postgraduate students keen to research topics relating to eighteenth and nineteenth-century art and visual culture.

Selected Publications:


The Politics of the Provisional The Politics of the Provisional: Art and Ephemera in Revolutionary France (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2013; paperback 2014).
Shortlisted for the R. H. Gapper Book Prize, Society for French Studies

Exhibition Catalogues

Le Trompe-l’œil: plus vrai que nature? exh. cat., with Miriam Milman, Magali Philippe, and Jean Rosen, Musée de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse, France (Versailles: RMN/Art Lys, 2005).

Journal Articles

'When I was a Telegrapher', nonsite.org, 14, special issue on 'Nineteenth-Century France Now: Art, Technology, Culture', edited by Bridget Alsdorf (December 2014). Online here

'Writing at a Distance: An Interview with Richard Taws', with Joshua Bauchner, Cabinet, 55 (Fall 2014): 45-52.

'Cultures visuelles et révolutions: enjeux et nouvelles problématiques', with Guillaume Mazeau, Pascal Dupuy, Charlotte Guichard and Pascal Griener, Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 372 (April-June 2013): 143-160.

‘Comment’, Invited response to special issue on ‘Capturing the Moment: Images and Eyewitnessing in History’ edited by Lynn Hunt and Vanessa Schwartz, Journal of Visual Culture, 9:3 (December 2010): 365-369.

‘Material Futures: Reproducing Revolution in P.-L. Debucourt’s Almanach National’, The Art Bulletin, 92:3 (September 2010): 169-187.

‘The Guillotine as Antimonument’, Sculpture Journal, 19:1 (Spring-Summer 2010): 33-48.

‘Ivory Towers: Obscuring Obsolescence in the Revolutionary Museum’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, 55/56 (Spring-Autumn 2009): 252-266.

‘Les études canadiennes sur l’art en l’Europe autour de 1800’, with Peggy Davis, Anne Lafont, Michael Pantazzi and Todd Porterfield, Perspective: La revue de l’INHA, 3-2008 (April 2009): 527-534.

‘Trompe-l’Oeil and Trauma: Money and Memory after the Terror’, Oxford Art Journal, 30:3 (October 2007): 353-376.

‘The 1790 Paris Federation and the visual (re)constitution of an idea’, Object, 4 (2002): 73-92.

Chapters in Books

'Skelett' in Lexikon der Revolutions-Ikonographie in der europäischen Druckgraphik, 1789-1889, edited by Wolfgang Cilleßen, Martin Miersch and Rolf Reichardt (Münster: Rhema Verlag, forthcoming 2016)

'Wargaming: Visualizing Conflict in French Printed Boardgames' in Visual Culture and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, edited by Satish Padiyar, Philip Shaw and Philippa Simpson (Farnham: Ashgate, forthcoming 2016)

‘The Precariousness of Things’ in The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: Drawing Satire in Eighteenth-Century Paris, edited by Colin Jones, Juliet Carey and Emily Richardson (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2012), 327-347.

‘The Currency of Caricature in Revolutionary France’ in The Efflorescence of Caricature, 1715-1838, edited by Todd Porterfield (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), 95-115.

‘Nineteenth-Century Revolutions and Strategies of Visual Persuasion’ in A History of Visual Culture: Western Civilization from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Century edited by Jane Kromm and Susan Bakewell (Oxford: Berg, 2010), 30-41.

‘L’Usage politique du trompe-l’oeil à l’époque révolutionnaire et post-révolutionnaire’ in Miriam Milman, Magali Philippe, Jean Rosen and Richard Taws, Le Trompe-l’oeil: plus vrai que nature? (Versailles: ArtLys, 2005), 32-40.

Shorter Pieces

'L'Autel de la Patrie', 'The Fall of the Bastille', 'Armand Gaston Camus', 'Fête de l’Être Suprême,' 'Journées' and 'French Revolutionary Symbols' in Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions and New Ideologies, 1760-1815, edited by Gregory Fremont-Barnes (Westport: Greenwood, 2007), 52-53, 65-67, 108-109, 237-238, 377-378, 706-708.

‘Antonio Canova’ and ‘Le Moniteur’ in Encyclopedia of French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, edited by Gregory Fremont-Barnes (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2006), 207-208, 649.

Catalogue entries on eight works in Le Trompe-l’œil: plus vrai que nature? exh. cat., Musée de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse, France (Versailles: RMN/Art Lys, 2005), 84, 85, 116-117, 117-118, 118-119, 120, 120-121.


'Disobedient Objects', Victoria and Albert Museum, London, West 86th, 21:2 (Fall-Winter 2014): 297-300.

Stephen Bann, 'Distinguished Images: Prints in the Visual Economy of Nineteenth-Century France', CAA.Reviews, November 2014.

Richard Clay, 'Iconoclasm in Revolutionary Paris: The Transformation of Signs', French Studies, 68:2 (April 2014): 253-254.

Stéphane Roy, 'Making the News in Eighteenth-Century France', Print Quarterly, 31:1 (February 2014): 71-73.

'Ruins and Reputations'. Review of Nina L. Dubin, 'Futures and Ruins: Eighteenth-Century Paris and the Art of Hubert Robert' and Elizabeth C. Mansfield, 'The Perfect Foil: François-André Vincent and the Revolution in French Painting', Oxford Art Journal, 36:3 (December 2013): 467-470.

Suzanne Glover Lindsay, 'Funerary Arts and Tomb Cult: Living with the Dead in France, 1750-1870', French History, 27:3 (September 2013): 474-476.

Philippe de Carbonnières, 'Les gravures historiques de Janinet: Collections du Musée Carnavalet', Print Quarterly, 30:2 (June 2013): 66-68.

Slavoj Žižek, 'Robespierre: Virtue and Terror', Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 34:3 (September 2011): 419-420.

'Rebel Without a Cause?' Review of Sylvain Bellenger ed., 'Girodet, 1767-1824', Art History, 31:2 (April 2008): 259-263.

'On the Record'. Review of Francis X. Blouin Jr and William G. Rosenberg eds., 'Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory' and Margaret Proctor, Michael G. Cook and Caroline Williams eds., 'Political Pressure and the Archival Record', History Workshop Journal, 64 (November 2007): 439-445.

'Facing the Enlightenment'. Review of 'Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760-1830', The Royal Academy of Arts, London, The Art Book, 14:4 (November 2007): 9-11.

Martin Myrone, 'Bodybuilding: Reforming Masculinities in British Art, 1750-1810', The Burlington Magazine, 149:1252 (July 2007): 499.

'Sex Sells'. Review of Sophie Carter, 'Purchasing Power: Representing Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century English Popular Print Culture', Oxford Art Journal, 29:1 (March 2006): 142-144.

Gregory S. Brown, 'Cultures in Conflict: The French Revolution', French History, 19:3 (September 2005): 408.

Warren Roberts, 'J.-L. David and J.-L. Prieur, Revolutionary Artists: The Public, The Populace and Images of the French Revolution' and Alain Chevalier, Claudette Hould et. al., 'La Révolution par la gravure', Object, 5 (2002): 96-102.

'Carnivalesque', Hayward Gallery, Object, 3 (2000): 126-129.

PhD Supervision:

Current PhD Students

Alexandra Ault, 'The Fine Art Print Trade and the Printsellers Association, 1847-1910' (UCL, Primary Supervisor)

Isabelle Masse, 'Portraits de la modernité: Le médium du pastel et sa réception dans la France des Lumières' (McGill University, Co-supervisor)

David Mitchell, 'The Iconography of the Mask: Mimesis and Deception in Ancien-Régime France' (McGill University, Co-supervisor)

Completed PhD Students

Christina Smylitopoulos, 'A Nabob’s Progress: Rowlandson and Combe’s The Grand Master, a Tale of British Imperial Excess, 1770-1830' (2011, McGill University, Primary Supervisor. Now Assistant Professor, University of Guelph)

Tania Solweig Shamy, 'Frederick the Great’s Porcelain Diversion: The Chinese Tea-House at Sans-Souci' (2009, McGill University, Co-supervisor)


A list of publications is available from UCL's Institutional Research Information Service via the Iris link below.