Early Modern Exchanges


Karen Hearn

Karen Hearn

Historian of British art and culture c.1500-c.1710 and exhibition curator. Previously the Curator of 16th & 17th Century British Art at the Tate Galleries (1992-2012). Honorary Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, UCL.


photo of Karen Hearn

Present areas of research

  • Representations of pregnancy
  • Artistic migration between the Netherlands and Britain, c.1500-c.1710
  • The works, biography and context of the painter Cornelius Johnson [Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen] (1593-1661)
  • Anthony Van Dyck's London Studio
  • Portraiture in Britain and the Northern and Southern Netherlands during the 16th & 17th Centuries
  • Women's patronage of the arts in the 16th & 17th Centuries
  • Co-editor of RKD Studies: Gerson Digital: Britain (https://gersonbritain.rkdstudies.nl/gerson-digital-britain/preface-karen-hearn-and-rieke-van-leeuwen/) - part of the newly translated and re-annotated online edition of Horst Gerson's 1942/1983 Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts [The Dispersal and Legacy of Dutch 17th-Century Painting], on the transnational mobility of artists from the Low Countries during the early modern period (2022-23).

Exhibitions curated

  • 1995-6: Curator of major Tate exhibition, Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630. Editor and principal author of catalogue. Received European Woman of Achievement Award.
  • 1997-8: Co-curator of In Celebration: The Art of the Country House, Tate Gallery exhibition. Catalogue essay on ‘Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Portraits in Country Houses’.
  • 1999-2000: Co-curator of A Tudor Mystery: The Allegorical Portrait of Sir John Luttrell, Courtauld Galleries, London. Booklet essay on ‘Hans Eworth: Traces of a Biography’.
  • 2002-3: Curator of Tate Britain exhibition Marcus Gheeraerts II: Elizabethan Artist. Author of accompanying Tate book.
  • 2004: Curator of small exhibition Talking Peace 1604: The Somerset House Conference Paintings, at The Gilbert Collection, London. Author of accompanying catalogue booklet.
  • 2005-6: Curator of exhibition Nathaniel Bacon: Artist, Gentleman and Gardener, Tate Britain. Author of accompanying Tate book.
  • Oct-Dec 2006: Co-curator of exhibition at the Rubenshuis, Antwerp, Royalist Refugees: The Rubenshuis years of William and Margaret Cavendish (1648-1660). Author of catalogue essay and entries.
  • Feb-May 2009: Curator of major Tate Britain exhibition, Van Dyck and Britain. Editor and principal author of catalogue.
  • Jan-Aug 2012: Co-curator of Migrations: Journeys into British Art, Tate Britain, and author of catalogue essays ‘Portraiture’ and ‘New Genres’, pp.16-31.
  • Dec 2011-May 2012: Curator of Rubens and Britain exhibition, Tate Britain, and author of accompanying Tate publication, Rubens and Britain.
  • Oct 2013 - March 2014: Co-curator of West Country to World's End: The South West in the Tudor Age, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.
  • April to September 2015: Curator of Cornelius Johnson: Charles I's Forgotten Painter, at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
  • September 2016 to April 2017: Curator of Portrait Miniatures in the Portland Collection, display at The Harley Gallery, Welbeck
  • 24 January to 16 March; and from early July to 23 August 2020: Curator of Portraying Pregnancy: from Holbein to Social Media, exhibition at The Foundling Museum, London.

Other publications

  • 'Henry Gibbs: Painter and Gentleman', Burlington Magazine, February 1998, pp.99-101
  • 'Insiders or Outsiders? Overseas-born Artists at the Jacobean Court’, in Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton, eds., From Strangers to Citizens, Sussex Academic Press, Brighton and Portland, 2001, pp.117-126
  • ‘“Only Matrimony Maketh Children to be Certain …”: Two Elizabethan Pregnancy Portraits’, (co-authored with Pauline Croft), British Art Journal, vol. 3, no. 3, Autumn 2002, pp.19-24
  • ‘A Question of Judgement: Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford, as Art Patron and Collector’, in The Evolution of English Collecting, Edward Chaney, ed., Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003.
  • ‘The English Career of Cornelius Johnson’, in Dutch and Flemish Artists in Britain 1550-1700, E Domela, M van de Meij-Tolsma, J Roding, E J Sluijter, B Westerweel, eds, Leiden, 2003, pp. 113 - 29.
  • 'Merchant Patrons for the Painter Siberechts’, in City Merchants and the Arts 1670-1720, Mireille Galinou, ed., Wetherby, 2004
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004 and online, entries on Sir Nathaniel Bacon, John Bettes, Marcus Gheeraerts I, Marcus Gheeraerts II, George Gower, John Hayls, Cornelius Johnson, Cornelis Ketel, Robert and William Peake, and Paul van Somer.
  • Nathaniel Bacon: Artist, Gentleman, Gardener, Tate Publishing, 2005.
  • Nicholas Hilliard, Unicorn Press, London 2005.
  • ‘Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada: A Painting and its Afterlife’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 2004, vol.14, 2005, pp.123-40.
  • ‘”Saved through childbearing”: a Godly Context for Elizabethan Pregnancy Portraits’, in Tara Hamling and Richard L Williams, eds, Art Re-formed, Newcastle, 2007, pp.65-70.
  • ‘William Cavendish’s Horse Portraits’, in Horses & Landscapes, The Harley Gallery, Worksop, 2008.
  • 'Lady Anne Clifford's "Great Triptych"', in Lady Anne Clifford: Culture, Patronage and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Britain, Karen Hearn and Lynn Hulse, eds, Leeds, 2009, pp. 1 - 24.
  • ‘The Painters’, in Mark Evans, ed, The Lumley Inventory and Pedigree, London, 2010, pp. 55-58.
  • ‘The full-length portrait in early 17th-century Britain’, in The Suffolk Collection, Laura Houliston, ed, Swindon, 2012, pp.28-39.
  • ‘Lely and Holland’, in Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, Courtauld Gallery exhibition catalogue, 2012, pp.26-39.
  • ‘“Those Spots for Vanity”: A beauty patch revealed in a portrait by Cornelis Jonson’, in Face Book: Studies on Dutch & Flemish Portraiture of the 16th-18th Centuries, Leiden, 2012, pp.345-50
  • ‘Merchant Class Portraiture in Tudor London: “Customer” Smith’s Commission, 1579/80’ in Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and Russian Tsars, V&A exhibition catalogue, 2013, pp. 36-43.
  • Co-authored with Natasha Walker & Joyce H. Townsend, 'Tate's Painting of a Man in Tudor Costume: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait or a Nineteenth Century Pastiche', in Tate Papers, online, autumn 2013.
  • 'Art in Britain between 1530 and 1620' and 'Nicholas Hilliard', in West Country to World's End: The South West in the Tudor Age, exhibition catalogue, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter,  2013, pp. 64-72 and 73-83.
  • 'Netherlandish Painters Active in Britain in the 16th & 17th Centuries' in CODART, The World of Dutch and Flemish Art, 15th Anniversary Online Publication, The Hague, 2013.
  • ‘Portraits of Ben Jonson’, essay in the online edition of The Cambridge Works of Ben Jonson, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • 'Heraldry in Tudor and Jacobean Portraits', in Heralds and Heraldry in Shakespeare's England, ed. Nigel Ramsay, Shaun Tyas, 2014, pp. 220 - 35.
  • '"Picture-drawer, born at Antwerp": Migrant Artists in Jacobean London', in Painting in Britain 1500-1630Production, Influences & Patronage, British Academy, 2015, pp. 278-287.
  • '"To Russia and Muscovia …": Thomas Smith’s Family and its International Network', in Emerging Empires: England and Muscovy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages, Moscow and London, 2015.
  • Cornelius Johnson, London (2015).
  • '"Neat finishing, smooth Painting, and labour in drapery": the distinctive portrait style of Cornelis Jonson (1593-1661)', in CODART ezine 7, winter 2015.
  • 'Revising the Visage: Patches and Beauty Spots in 17th-century English and Dutch Painted Portraits', in Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 78, no.4, winter 2015/2016, pp.809-823.
  • 'Painting on Wooden Panel', in The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare, Bruce R. Smith ed, vol. 1, New York & Cambridge, 2016, pp.440-48.
  • 'The National and Professional Identities of Cornelius Johnson', and 'Cornelius Johnson – Timeline', in Cornelius Johnson: Painter to King & Country, exhibition catalogue, The Weiss Gallery, London (2016), pp. 8–15 and 98–105.
  • 'The "small oil colour pictures" of Cornelius Johnson (1593-1661)', in Portrait Miniatures, Artists, Functions & Collections, The Tansey Miniatures Foundation (2018), pp.179-88.
  • 'L'atelier londinese di Antoon van Dyck [Van Dyck's London Studio]', essay in Van Dyck: Pittore di Corte, exhibition catalogue, Galleria Sabauda, Royal Museums, Turin (2018), pp.90-99.
  • 'Painted Portraits and the Paston Family's Collection of Paintings' essay (plus catalogue entries) in The Paston Treasure: Microcosm of the Known World, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and Norwich Castle Museum (2018), pp.200-203, 456-7, 495. 
  • Co-authored with Helen Hackett, 'What did Elizabeth I really look like at Sixty?' for BBC History Extra  https://www.historyextra.com/period/elizabethan/what-did-elizabeth-i-really-look-like-at-60/ (2018).
  • ‘"Wrought with flowers and leaves": Embroidery Depicted in Late Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century British Portraits – the Era of Rubens', in Undressing Rubens: Fashion and Painting in Seventeenth-Century Antwerp, ed. Lieneke Nijkamp & Abigail D. Newman, London & Turnhout (2019), pp.31-46.
  • Catalogue entries for the exhibition Rubens and His Age: the Century of Flemish Baroque Painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (2019).
  • Portraying Pregnancy: from Holbein to Social Media, London (2020)
  • '“Curiously painted, drawn, & understood”: Adriaen Hanneman’s portrait of Cornelius Johnson and his wife and son', in Connoisseurship: Essays in Honour of Fred G. Meijer, ed. Charles Dumas et al, Leiden (2020), pp.163-170.
  • 'Painters and Patronage at the London Court of James VI & I', in Bright Star of the North: the Art and Court of James VI & I, exhibition catalogue, Scottish Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (catalogue publication date currently suspended).
  • 'Anthonis Mor: Portraits of Sir Thomas Gresham & his wife Anne Ferneley', in 100 Masterpieces Dutch and Flemish Art (1350-1750): CODART Canon, The Hague (2021), pp.90-91 (and, in reduced form, online: https://canon.codart.nl/artwork/portrait-of-sir-thomas-gresham-and-his-wife-anne-ferneley/).
  • 'A newly identified portrait by Sir Nathaniel Bacon', Burlington Magazine, vol.164, July 2022, pp.641-9.
  • ‘"Choice pieces": The Portraits of Lucy Harington Russell', in The Cultural Influence of Lucy Harington Russell, Countess of Bedford, ed. N N W Akkerman & and D S Smith (forthcoming).
  • 'Elizabeth I at Sixty', co-authored with Helen Hackett, in Women and Cultures of Portraiture in the British Literary Renaissance, ed. Yasmin Arshad & Chris Laoutaris (forthcoming).
  • 'Artisan knowledge: Migrant artists in 16th & 17th Century London', in The Oxford Handbook on Travel, Identity and Race in Early Modern England, 1500-1700, ed. Nandini Das (forthcoming).
  • Texts and Painted Portraits’ in Europe in the World: A Literary History, 1545-1659/61, ed. Warren Boutcher, Oxford University Press (forthcoming). Part of the five-year (2022-26) European Research Council funded project ‘Textuality and Diversity: A Literary History of Europe and its Global Connections, 1545-1661.