Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series

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Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series

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Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series

The Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is one of two annual distinguished lecture series at The Courtauld. This series was established in 1989, as a result of a bequest from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, in honour of Frank Davis, who was a critic for Country Life magazine. The bequest has allowed The Courtauld to invite internationally renowned scholars to come to the institute to speak about their work in a public forum.

Frank Davis Lectures 2019 - The Arts of Pre-Colonial Africa
an illustrated map of Africa

Map of Africa by Sebastian Münster (1489-1552). Woodcut with added color. From Münster’s Cosmographia uniuersalis (Basel, 1554). This is the earliest obtainable map of the entire African continent. It was made by one of the most influential mid-16th century cartographers.

View more information about the 2019 Frank Davis Lecture Series

Frank Davis Lectures 2018 - Art History Decentred/Recentred


Adrien Richard de Beauchamps, Négresse à la houe et Commandeur, Pointe-à-Pitre, musée Schoelcher

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Frank Davis Lectures 2017 - It's a riot!

Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Il Quarto Stato, oil on canvas, 293×545 cm, Museo del Novecento, Milan

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Frank Davis Lectures 2016 - Light and Darkness
Anthony McCall. "Solid Light Films and Other Works" (1971-2014). Installation view Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam 2014. Photo by Hans Wilschut.

Anthony McCall. “Solid Light Films and Other Works” (1971-2014). Installation view Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam 2014. Photo by Hans Wilschut.

The 2016 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores the significance of light and darkness in making, viewing and thinking about visual and material cultures.

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Frank Davis Lectures 2015 - Art, Anthropology and Art History

Waswo X. Waswo, The Fishermen, 2011. Black and white digital photograph hand-coloured by Rajesh Soni. Courtesy the artist

View more information about the 2015 Frank Davis Lecture Series

The 2015 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series brings together anthropologists and art historians for a ‘conversation’ about art and about the ways in which their respective disciplines have addressed its theory, practice and history. The series makes no pretence of definiteness; the aim is rather to find places of conjunction where discussion of such broad issues as time, matter and practice can occur in a way that is mutually illuminating. The lectures of Professors Nicholas Thomas and Tim Ingold consider the role that contemporary art can play in the future development of a hermeneutics of art respectively in the museum and the academy. Professor Richard Fardon and Professors Caroline Van Eck and Stijn Bussels take something more like a case-studies approach: the subjects of the colour red and of the motif of the Medusa’s head are respectively explored in the context of absence and of the untamed, or wild. Finally, time is the problematic investigated by Professor Chris Pinney and Dr Satish Padiyar, in photography and painting: consideration is given to questions of synchronicity, pace and anachronism.

Organised by Professor Katie Scott (The Courtauld)


13 October 2015
Professor Nicholas Thomas (Director, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
A Critique of the Natural Artefact: Anthropology, Art and Museology

20 October 2015
Professor Dr Caroline Van Eck (Centre for the Arts in Society, University of Leiden) and Dr Stijn Bussels (Centre for the Arts in Society, University of Leiden)
From the Grotesque to Outsider Art: Where Does Art History Stop, and Anthropology Begin?

3 November 2015
Professor Richard Fardon FBA (Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS)
African Red

10 November 2015
Professor Tim Ingold (Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen)
Ethnography is to Anthropology as Art History is to Arts Practice: A Provocation

1 December 2015
Dr Satish Padiyar (Senior Lecturer, History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art)
Fragonard and Time

8 December 2015
Professor Christopher Pinney (Department of Anthropology, University College London)
Performance and De-synchronization: Opening the Past in Contemporary Indian Photography

Frank Davis Lectures 2014 - Courtauld Professorial Lectures


View more information and watch videos of the 2014 Frank Davis Lecture Series

The 2014 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series, Courtauld Professorial Lectures, highlight and celebrate the range and depth of research of some of The Courtauld’s distinguished professors. The Series will include explorations of early and contemporary examples of globalisation; the populist dimension of postmodernism; Diderot’s writings and their relationship to questions of materiality, portraiture and the interior; how technical examinations of paintings can inform art historical analysis; and an analysis of William Morris’ printed fabrics.

Sponsored by the F M Kirby Foundation and The Prince’s Foundation

Organised by Professor Deborah Swallow (Märit Rausing Director, The Courtauld Institute of Art)


7 October 2014
Professor Julian Stallabrass (Professor of Art History, The Courtauld)
Elite Art in an Age of Populism

21 October 2014
Professor Sarah Wilson (Professor of Art History, The Courtauld)
Globalisation Before Globalisation: ‘Magiciens de la Terre’?

4 November 2014
Professor Aviva Burnstock (Head of Conservation and Technology, The Courtauld)
Material Matters: Looking Through Paintings

18 November 2014
Professor Katie Scott (Professor of Art History, The Courtauld)
Interior Fictions: Dressing-gowns and Shipwrecks in Diderot’s ‘Regrets’

2 December 2014
Professor Caroline Arscott (Professor of Nineteenth-century British Art, The Courtauld)
Dyeing, Bleaching, Printing: Morris and Abundance

Frank Davis Lectures 2013 - Art and Vision Science

Raphael Rosenberg_Annunciation

The 2013 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores the intersection between art and vision science. More than fifty years after Gombrich’s pioneering Art and Illusion, the science of perception remains, for the most part, marginal to art historical practice, despite extraordinary recent advances in our understanding of the visual brain. In this series of five international lectures, leading vision scientists and art historians argue the case for a new engagement between art and science, in which scientific models of vision inform the theories and approaches of art history. The complex dynamics of perception, unlocked by contemporary vision science, contain implications for the study of art that are only now being realised.

Sponsored by the F M Kirby Foundation and The Guarantors of Brain

Organised by Tim Satterthwaite and Dr Meredith A Brown


8 October 2013
Johan Wagemans (Professor, Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven])
Part-Whole Relationships in Art and Vision

22 October 2013
Margaret Livingstone (Professor, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School)
Visual Insights: What Art Can Tell Us About the Brain

5 November 2013
Raphael Rosenberg (Professor, Department of Art History, University of Vienna)
The Beholder’s Gaze: What Do Our Eyes Do When We Look at Paintings?

19 November 2013
Regine Rapp (Co-Director and Curator, Art Laboratory Berlin)
Engulfed and in Motion: Some Notes on the Phenomenon of Perception in Contemporary Installation Art

3 December 2013
Chris Drury (artist, UK)
Double Echo: Exploring the Resonance Between Art and Science

Frank Davis Lectures 2012 - Histories in Transition

Tim Barringer - lecture image cropThe 2012 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores intersections between modernity and historicism worldwide. Spanning art, architecture and design across America, Europe and Asia from the nineteenth century to the present, each lecture demonstrates the allure and the value of the past in forming challenging responses to new circumstances. Interrogating the nature of revival, historicism and transnationalism, the series engages with nature and artifice, ritual and memory, and the flexible meanings of materials, images and structures that simultaneously inhabit traditional and innovative territory.

Organised by Dr Ayla Lepine


Tuesday 9 October
Mark Cheetham (Professor, University of Toronto) and Mariele Neudecker (artist; and senior lecturer Bath Spa University)
Re-Inventing Landscape Traditions for the Present

Tuesday 23 October
Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University)
Broken Pastoral and the English Folk: Art and Music in Britain, 1880-1914

Tuesday 20 November
Rémi Labrusse (Professor, Université de Paris Ouest – Nanterre)
Orientalism and “Islamophilia”

Tuesday 27 November
Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Director and Professor in History, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta)
The Dead Object of Public Statuary: Sculptural Iconographies of Colonial and Postcolonial Calcutta

Tuesday 4 December
Toshio Watanabe (Professor, University of the Arts London; and Director, Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation [TrAIN])
Ryoanji Garden as the Epitome of Zen Culture: The Process of Transnational Canon Formation

Frank Davis Lectures 2011 - Royal Manuscripts at The British Library

Catherine Reynolds - Brit Library image Vincent of Beauvais compressedTwo thousand manuscripts from the Old Royal library were presented to the British Museum by George II in 1757. About one hundred and fifty of the most richly illuminated will be displayed in a joint British Library/Courtauld Institute of Art exhibition, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination at the British Library from 11 November 2011 to 13 March 2012. Taking this extraordinary collection as their starting point, the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series for 2011 will explore aspects of the patronage, manufacture, function and collection of books in medieval England and France, and will provide a broad context for these precious survivors of the library of the kings and queens of England.

Organised by Professor John Lowden (The Courtauld)


11 October 2011
Professor Richard Gameson (University of Durham)
The Earliest English Royal Books

25 October 2011
Dr John Goodall (Architectural Editor, Country Life)
The Library and the Architecture of the Book: Manuscripts in the Secular World from 1400 to 1650

8 November 2011
Dr Catherine Reynolds (Christie’s)
Makers of Royal Manuscripts: Court Artists in France and the Netherlands

22 November 2011
Professor Jeffrey Hamburger (Harvard University)
Script as Image

6 December 2011
Dr Jenny Stratford (Royal Holloway College/Institute of Historical Research)
England and France: Royal Libraries in the Later Middle Ages

Frank Davis Lectures 2010 - Resistance and Interpretation: Disciplinary Perspectives

Tim Ingold - kandinsky cropThis series proposes a range of ways of approaching the specific resistance found in objects of enquiry, calling attention to the ways in which contemporary scholarship attends to the conditions that set up resistances with respect to disciplinary investigation. Distinguished scholars from different disciplinary traditions are invited to consider how the notion of resistance is dealt with in their field of research and reflect on the ways in which material and cultural factors inhibit or disturb smooth assimilation of artefacts and cultural activities into theory and predetermined categories of interpretation.

Organised by Dr Francesco Lucchini


12 October 2010
Miguel Tamen (Professor, Director of Programme in Literary Theory, University of Lisbon; and Regular Visiting Professor, University of Chicago)
Interpretation Through the Looking-Glass

26 October 2010
Peter Burke (Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Emmanuel College)
Traditions of Resistance: The Case of History

9 November 2010
Peter Stewart (Reader in Classical Art and its Heritage, and Acting Dean, The Courtauld Institute of Art)
Art-Archaeology: The Materiality of Classical Art History

23 November 2010
Timothy Ingold (Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of the School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen)
Resisting Culture, Embracing Life: Anthropology Beyond Humanity

7 December 2010
Christopher Wood (Professor, Department of History of Art, Yale University)
Art History Unrealized

Frank Davis Lectures 2009 - Globalisation and Contemporary Art

Anne Wagner - IMG_0062 compressContemporary art has been radically transformed by globalisation. Biennials sprang up across the world from Korea to Senegal to Brazil, showcasing globalised contemporary art, and inculcating its values in diverse local situations. At the same time, that art was altered as artists from the ‘developing world’, particularly China, India, Latin American and Sub-Saharan Africa, rose to prominence on the global art scene. While much of the art that first came out of that transformation propagandised the virtues of globalization, new tensions have emerged, from the ‘war on terror’ to the financial crisis, which have led to a strongly documentary and politicised turn in art. In this series, prominent art historians, artists and theorists will examine this striking new configuration. This series has been organised by Dr Julian Stallabrass and Professor Malcolm Bull in conjunction with their Research Forum/Andrew W Mellon Foundation M.A. Special Option in the History of Art on ‘Aestheticising Politics? The Political in Globalised Contemporary Art’.

Organised by Dr Julian Stallabrass


20 October 2009
T J Demos (Reader, University College London)
Video against Globalization

27 October 2009
Malcolm Bull (Research Forum/Andrew W Mellon Foundation MA Visiting Professor from Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford)
World Art and Art World 

24 November 2009
Coco Fusco (interdisciplinary artist, writer and Director of Intermedia Initiatives, Parsons The New School for Design, New York)
Performing Bare Life, Exploring Carceral Cultures

1 December 2009
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (artists)
Unconcerned But Not Indifferent

8 December 2009
Anne M Wagner (Class of 1936 Chair and Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, University of California, Berkeley)
Everyday People

Frank Davis Lectures 2008 - Writing Art History: Off the Page

Alixe Bovey - Caerphilly and Cosmeston 013The 2008 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series continues the Research Forum’s examination of ‘Writing Art History’, exploring various ways of constructing art historical narratives, and the changing roles of art historians, critics and writers. The theme for this autumn’s lectures is ‘Off the Page’, and the series will feature an exciting range of speakers who have themselves made art history through performance, exhibitions, the internet, and television.


28 October 2008
Dr Charlie Gere (Reader in New Media Research and Director of the Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster University)
Slitting Open the Kantian Eye

11 November 2008
Andrea Fraser (Associate Professor, Department of Art, UCLA; and faculty, Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program)
Performing Art History

18 November 2008
Professor Mark Hallett (Department of History of Art, University of York)
Looking at Faces: Re-viewing Joshua Reynolds’ The Marlborough Family (1777-9)

25 November 2008
Dr Alixe Bovey (School of History, University of Kent)
Broadcasting Medieval Culture

Frank Davis Lectures 2007 - Writing Art History

Alex Potts - Rauschenberg imageThe 2007 Frank Davis series addressed the changing role of the art historian across historical periods, and considers how art history incorporates a range of writings on art, from the novelist to the critic to the philosopher.


16 October 2007
Amelia Jones (Pilkington Chair and Professor of Art History and Visual Studies, University of Manchester)
Aesthetics, Identity and Art History

23 October 2007
Alex Potts (Professor and Chair, Department of History of Art, University of Michigan)
Art and Non-Art: the Conditions of Modern Realism

27 November 2007
Paul Crossley (Professor, Classical/Byzantine/Medieval Section, Courtauld Institute of Art)
The Revenge of the Spiritual Medieval Art History After Theory

4 December 2007
Jaś Elsner (Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow, Corpus Christi College, Oxford)
Alois Riegl and Classical Archaeology

Frank Davis Lectures 2006 - Disciplines Unbound

Janet Woolf - berlin1‘Disciplines Unbound’ was a series of lectures about undoing. Four prominent historians, critics and theorists of art reflect upon aggression, transgression, protest, derision and writing itself as modes of undoing traditions, disciplines, categories, media and methods. Patriarchy, history, the academy and the art world will all come undone.

Organised by Mignon Nixon and Shulamith Behr


17 October 2006
Maud Lavin (Professor, Visual and Critical Studies and Art History, Theory and Criticism, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Marlene McCarty’s ‘Murder Girls’

7 November 2006
Lisa Tickner (Professor of Art History, Middlesex University)
The Gestetner Revolution: The Hornsey Sit-In of 1968

14 November 2006
Rosalyn Deutsche (Visiting Professor, Barnard College, New York)
Lawler’s Rude Museum

5 December 2006
Janet Wolff (Professor of Performance, Screen and Visual Cultures, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research for the Arts (CIDRA), University of Manchester)
The Sociological Image


Frank Davis Lectures 2005 - Viewing time: artists on art and temporality

gerz monumentlookArtistic practices today engage time in a startling variety of modes. In these lectures, artists working in diverse media will talk about their own work and reflect on the ways in which art invites us to view time.

Organised by Professor Paul Hills (The Courtauld)


1 November 2005
Jeremy Deller

8 November 2005
Jochen Gerz

22 November 2005
Richard Wentworth

29 November 2005
Timothy Hyman

13 December 2005
Cornelia Parker

Frank Davis Lectures 2004 - Boundaries

Organised by Deborah Cherry (Central St Martins College of Art and Design)


26 October 2004
Professor Craig Clunas (SOAS)
Pictures in the Chinese Encyclopaedia: Image, Category and Knowledge in Ming China

9 November 2004
Professor Gauvin Bailey (Clark University)
The Jesuit Infirmary Frescoes at S. Andrea al Quirinale in Rome:
Traversing the Boundaries Between Catholic and Pagan, Real and Virtual

16 November 2004
Professor Piotr Piotrowski, Adama Mickiewicza University, Poznan
From Borders to Boundaries. Geography of Art in Post-1989 Europe

23 November 2004
Professor Anthea Callen
Inside Out: Anatomy, Medicine and the Boundaries of Nineteenth-Century Masculinity

30 November 2004
Professor Lynda Nead (Birkbeck College)
The Moving Stare-Case: Velocities of the Image c.1900

7 December 2004
Professor Robert Nelson (University of Chicago)
Sailing from Byzantium: A Greek Lectionary in Constantinople, Trebizond, Rome, and Florence

Frank Davis Lectures 2003 - Late Gothic in Europe: Connexions and Contrasts

518QNTYDZTL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_[1]The theme of the 2003 Frank Davis Memorial Lectures, lasting from October to December, was entitled ‘Late Gothic in Europe. Connexions and Contrasts’. It was timed to coincide with the major international exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from October 2003 to January 2004, ‘Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547’.  The lectures were designed to offer a broad European perspective on English late Gothic art – hence their discussion of a variety of artistic media – including panel painting, stained glass and manuscript illumination – and their diversity of focus, from Burgundian court ceremonial to Christian-Jewish polemic, from English Perpendicular to the co-existence of Late Gothic and early Renaissance in Cracow.

Organised by Professor Paul Crossley (The Courtauld)


14 October 2003
Professor Richard Marks

‘Getting Medieval.’ The Making of the ‘Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547’ Exhibition

21 October 2003
Professor Robert Suckale

The Impact of Burgundian Court Ceremonial and Habitus on Netherlandish Painting ca. 1450-1480

28 October 2003
Dr Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz

Fifteenth-century Stained Glass and Art at the Court of Charles VI and Charles VII. Stained Glass and the Other Arts: Resemblances and Dissimilarities

4 November 2003
Professor Peter Kurmann

The Survival of the Thirteenth-Century Cathedral in Late Gothic Art

11 November 2003
Dr Robert Maniura

Gothic and Non-Gothic in Fifteenth-Century Cracow: the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Wawel Cathedral

18 November 2003
Professor Jeffrey Hamburger

Body v. Book: the Trope of Visibility in Images of Christian-Jewish Polemic

25 November 2003
Professor Jonathan Alexander

England, Europe and the Art of the Book, c.1399 to c.1547

2 December 2003
Professor Christian Heck

Grünewald and the Isenheim Altarpiece

9 December 2003
Dr Christopher Wilson

The Divinity School at Oxford and the Grand Narrative of Perpendicular Architecture

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