History of Art


Alexandra Ault

PhD supervisor: Richard Taws
Working title for PhD: ‘Proof of the proof: the Printsellers Association and fine art publishing c 1847-1920’

My PhD thesis explores the Printsellers Association (PSA) and the publishing of fine art print reproductions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While the majority of Victorian reproductive prints are now considered to have little financial or academic value, many were luxury items few could afford and were beautifully crafted works of art in their own right. Art dealers and publishers were keen to protect profit from selling fine art prints in a market where new forms of print and photographic technology were emerging. As a result, the PSA was formed, and along with it a hierarchy of ‘value’ for different types of print. My work explores the events leading up to the foundation of the PSA and its near-monopoly of art publishing after 1847.  Using archives from publisher-dealers such as Agnews and Henry Graves, I investigate individual purchasers of prints, demonstrating that establishing provenance for so-called mass-produced artworks is not only possible, but a valuable line of enquiry. 

I am currently Lead Curator of Manuscripts 1601-1850 at the British Library. Most recently, I have curated a series of exhibitions about literary manuscripts across cities in China and Hong Kong.