Dr Richard Taws
Office: 301, 20 Gordon Square
Office hours: Monday 2-3pm and Wednesday 9-10am
+44 (0)20 3108 4025 (internal 54025)
Reader in the History of Art
Dept of History of Art
Faculty of S&HS
18th and 19th-Century French and British visual culture; art and the French Revolution; print culture; history and theory of media and technology
Richard’s recent research has focused on a wide range of everyday, ephemeral, obsolete, or obscured forms of visual and material culture; the social and political stakes of printed images; and histories and theories of science, media, and technology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Much of his work examines the relation between images and concepts of historical time, and the entanglement of artistic and non-art objects, particularly in the fifty years either side of 1800. His first book The Politics of the Provisional: Art and Ephemera in Revolutionary France (Penn State University Press, 2013; paperback 2014), analysed images and objects made in France in the 1790s that represented conditions of transience, fragility, or incompletion, arguing that questions of material durability were key to understanding the French Revolution’s transformative role in history. The Politics of the Provisional was shortlisted for the R. Gapper Prize of the Society for French Studies, and its publication was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by a Millard Meiss Publication Grant from the College Art Association. A related article, on paper money and post-revolutionary memory, won the 2011 Max Nänny Prize, awarded every three years by the International Association of Word and Image Studies, and has been included by Oxford Art Journal in a 40th anniversary collection of twelve key articles in the journal’s history.
Richard is editor, with Genevieve Warwick, of Art and Technology in Early Modern Europe (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), published first as a special issue of Art History. As a member of the ‘Multigraph Collective’, an interdisciplinary group of media scholars, he recently co-authored Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in the Era of Print Saturation (University of Chicago Press, 2018). In 2016 he curated, with David Bindman, ‘Revolution Under a King: French Prints, 1789-1792’, at UCL Art Museum; a sequel to this exhibition is in preparation for 2020.
Richard is currently completing Time Machines: Art Under the Sign of Telegraphy in Nineteenth-Century France, which traces intersections between art and new communication technologies—particularly the optical telegraph system—in France from the Revolution onwards. A further project, on the relationship between media and politics in nineteenth-century representations of the French Revolution, is at an early stage. An essay derived from this research, on printed and photographic images of royal impostors, received the 2017 Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Article Prize, while an article on the engraving machines and other graphic devices developed by Nicolas-Jacques Conté during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign was recently awarded the 2018 James L. Clifford Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
Richard completed his PhD at UCL in 2005 and was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, Canada, before returning to London in 2011. He 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). Richard is a member of the editorial board of Art History, and a collaborator with the Montreal-based Interacting with Print research group. He was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2012, and is on leave in 2018-19 as the recipient of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship.
Teaching & Supervision
Richard teaches a variety of courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Recent MA special subject courses have included ‘Art and Technology in Nineteenth-Century France’, and, for 2019-2020, ‘Time, Media, Revolution: Art and Politics in France, 1789-1871’.
He would be interested to hear from potential postgraduate students keen to research topics relating to eighteenth and nineteenth-century art and visual culture, politics, media, technology, and aesthetics, or that align in other ways with his research interests. Potential applicants should contact Richard directly to discuss their proposals.
Current PhD Supervision
Rosalind Hayes, ‘Consuming Animals: Nonhuman Lives in Late Victorian Visual Culture’ (UCL, Primary Supervisor)
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 Associate 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)