Dr Richard Taws
Office: 301, 20 Gordon Square
Office hours: Tuesday 9-10am and Wednesday 11-12am
+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.
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 Taws teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European 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)
Teaching & Supervision
Richard would be interested to hear from potential postgraduate students
keen to research topics relating to eighteenth and nineteenth-century
art and visual culture.
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)