Portrait of Dr Ben Thomas

Dr Ben Thomas

Reader
Head of Histories: Art, Drama and Film Research Cluster

About

I am an art historian and curator.

I was co-curator with Catherine Whistler of Raphael: The Drawings [12] at the Ashmolean Museum (1 June – 3 September 2017), described by The Financial Times as ‘a game-changing presentation of graphic art’. This exhibition also received ***** reviews from The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph, and was awarded the 'exhibition of the year' award by Apollo Magazine, and a Global Fine Art award.

I was also the curator of the exhibition Drawing Together at the Courtauld Gallery (30 September 2017 – 2 January 2018), which explored the nature of drawing through a selection of works in the Courtauld’s collection and by the contemporary artists Stephen Farthing, Humphrey Ocean and Jenny Saville.

At Kent, I am the convenor of the MA Curating and I was the founding Curator of Kent’s Studio 3 Gallery from 2010 until 2015. In this role, I worked with a wide range of contemporary artists including Art & Language, John Blackburn, Paul Coldwell, Rose Hilton, Philip Hughes, Ana Maria Pacheco, Marcus Rees Roberts, Brian Rice, Richard Rome, Aithan Shapira, and Hani Zurob. Other exhibitions I have curated include The Paradox of Mezzotint at UCL Art Gallery in 2008 and Alfred Drury and the New Sculpture at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds in 2014.

In 2005, I founded the Kent Print Collection, a museum-standard collection of prints where only undergraduate students can make acquisitions for the university. To date this collection has generated seven student-curated exhibitions including 2017’s P is for Pop, P is for Print, a survey of prints by British Pop artists.

One of my principal research areas is the history of printmaking and print culture, and as a historian of print I contribute to the School of Arts’ Media Studies degree. Also relevant here is the module Costume & Fashion which I convene.

I studied at the University of Oxford, where my postgraduate studies in History of Art were supervised by David Ekserdjian and David Franklin. I received a doctorate in 1997 for a dissertation on debates in Renaissance Italy comparing painting and sculpture. While at Oxford I was research assistant to Margaret Wind, working on the scholarly archive of her husband, the art historian Edgar Wind. I was also fortunate to work at the Ashmolean Museum as the Fortnum Archive Project Officer and as a print cataloguer in the library of Worcester College. This combination of experiences taught me that Art History involves looking carefully while asking questions, that it is part of a tradition of humanistic enquiry, and that the material object has to be at its heart.

I am currently a trustee of the Association for Art History.

Research interests

I trained as a Renaissance art historian, and the art of sixteenth-century Italy remains one of my principal areas of research, along with the history of prints and drawings.

I am currently writing a book entitled Marginal Anarchy: Edgar Wind and Modern Art, in which I explore the Renaissance art historian, Edgar Wind’s interest in modern art. The historiography of art is another of my research interests.
Often, working as a curator, my research takes a practice-based form, resulting in exhibitions and catalogues. To download examples of exhibition catalogues I have authored please go to:

https://kent.academia.edu/BenThomas

Teaching

I believe that knowledge is acquired and retained more effectively when learning is an active and creative process. I also believe that in order to teach Art History properly students have to have direct access to works of art. These two principles lay behind my development of the module Print Collecting and Curating, a course where students put on an exhibition of their own devising working with the Kent Print Collection. I was also concerned that this module should develop key skills and provide practical experience relevant to a career in the art world. This was an approach to teaching Art History that produced remarkable results with student-curated exhibitions being included in the schedules of professional museums and their catalogues being reviewed in Print Quarterly and Art in Print. This module brought me international recognition as an innovative teacher in the field, and I have been nominated for national prizes. In 2008 I was awarded Kent’s Humanities Faculty Teaching Prize and I was nominated by Kent for the National Teaching Fellowship in 2006 and 2008, and for the Times Higher

Education teaching award in 2008 and 2010. I was awarded the Barbara Morris Prize for Learning Support by the University of Kent in 2012.

I am committed to achieving the highest standards as a teacher and to sharing good practice across the profession. I was awarded a PGCHE by the University of Kent in 2001, and I have acted as an external examiner at the University of Oxford, University College Cork, the University of Reading, and at the Courtauld Institute.

I currently convene the following undergraduate modules:

  • Art and Architecture of the Renaissance
  • Classicism and Baroque
  • Costume & Fashion
  • Surrealism: Myth and Modernity
  • Print Collecting and Curating
  • Drawing on History

At postgraduate level I convene the MA Curating and the module History & Theory of Curating.

Supervision

I am currently supervising a broad range of Phd projects, including sixteenth-century printmaking, seventeenth-century Bolognese art, through to aspects of modern and contemporary art.

I have previously supervised research projects on Rubens and the concept of Imitation, Annibale Carracci and the Farnese Gallery, Vittore Carpaccio, Giotto and liturgical drama, and the cultural influence of Aby Warburg in twentieth-century Italy.

I welcome applications for postgraduate study by research under my supervision across the field of the History of Art. My own areas of research expertise include:

  • Renaissance and Baroque Art
  • Prints and Drawings
  • Historiography of Art
  • History of Collecting and Curating
  • Sculpture
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