History of Art


Dr Mechthild Fend

Dr Mechthild Fend


Mechthild Fend

Mechthild Fend is Reader in History of Art at UCL and joined the department in 2006. Previously (2001-2005) she was a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She also held a number of prestigious post-doctoral fellowships and awards, including a Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship (2000-2001), and a membership at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton (2005-2006). She specialises in French 18th- and 19th-century art and visual culture and the historically changing relations between art and science. Her work is driven by a feminist perspective and an interest in the complex relationships between body and image. She has also published on art theory and the historiography of art history, and she has lectured and published widely on skin, flesh tones, skin colour and artistic anatomy. Her most current work is concerned with anatomical illustrations and medical imagery, and she is starting a new project on the pathologies of the portrait.

Mechthild has co-edited five collected volumes and is the author of two monographs. Grenzen der Männlichkeit: Der Androgyn in der französischen Kunst und Kunsttheorie 1750-1830 (Berlin: Reimer, 2003) was translated into French as Les limites de la masculinité: L'androgyne dans l'art et la théorie de l'art en France 1750-1830 (Paris: La Decouverte, 2011). The book is concerned with androgynous masculinities in the period of the French Revolution. Her second book is Fleshing out Surfaces: Skin in French art and medicine 1750-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2016).

Contact Details

Office:  G04, 21 Gordon Square
Office Hours: Wednesday 12-1pm or by appointment
+44 (0)20 3108 4019 (internal 54019)
Email: m.fend@ucl.ac.uk



Reader in History of Art and Research Tutor

Dept of History of Art

Faculty of S&HS

Research Themes

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

Art Design and Architecture


Research Summary

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:

Research Activities

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: Cultures of Preservation. The afterlife of specimens since the 18th century.


Teaching and Supervision

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

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).