School of Arts

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Dr Ben Thomas

Reader

Head of Centre for Art History and Visual Cultures

 

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 forPop, 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.

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Publications

Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Book
Whistler, C. and Thomas, B. (2017). Raphael: The Drawings. Ashmolean.
Thomas, B. (2017). Drawing Together. Paul Holberton Publishing.
Hammer, M. and Thomas, B. (2015). My Generation: A Festival of British Art in the 1960s. GB: University of Kent at Canterbury.
Kear, J. and Thomas, B. (2010). In Elysium: Prints by James Barry. Canterbury, UK: Studio 3 Gallery, University of Kent.
Thomas, B. (2008). The Paradox of Mezzotint, exhibition catalogue. Canterbury.
Edited book
Read, B. et al. eds. (2013). Alfred Drury and the New Sculpture. Studio 3 Gallery, University of Kent.
Thomas, B.D.H. ed. (2012). Double Take: The Art of Printmaking. Studio 3 Gallery.
Thomas, B.D.H. ed. (2008). The Art of Comedy, exhibition catalogue. Canterbury.
Thomas, B.D.H. ed. (2007). Dreams and Nightmares, exhibition catalogue. Canterbury.
Thomas, B.D.H. ed. (2006). The Awakening, exhibition catalogue. Canterbury.
Thomas, B.D.H. and Wilson, T. eds. (1999). C. D. E. Fortnum and the collecting and study of applied arts and sculpture in Victorian England. Ashmolean Publications/Oxford University Press.
Article
Thomas, B. (2017). Jim Dine and Pinocchio. Arabeschi [Online] 10. Available at: http://www.arabeschi.it/16-jim-dine-and-pinocchio/.
Thomas, B. (2016). Alfred Drury: The Artist as Curator. 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century. 2016(22):1-13.
Thomas, B. and Whistler, C. (2016). Eloquence in Raphael Drawings. Artibus et Historiae 74:25-36.
Thomas, B. (2015). The Early Prints of Marcus Rees Roberts. Art in Print [Online] 5:7-11. Available at: http://artinprint.org/article/the-early-prints-of-marcus-rees-roberts/.
Thomas, B. (2015). Edgar Wind. A Short Biography. Stan Rzeczy [Online] 8:117-137. Available at: http://www.stanrzeczy.edu.pl/tom/stan-rzeczy-08/.
Thomas, B. (2015). 'The child is father of the man': Alfred Drury and temporality. Sculpture Journal [Online] 24:55-72. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/sj.2015.24.1.5.
Thomas, B. (2012). John Evelyn's Project of Translation. Art in Print [Online]:28-34. Available at: http://artinprint.org/index.php.
Thomas, B. (2005). The academy of Bandinelli. Print Quarterly XXII:3-14.
Thomas, B. (2005). The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli. Print Quarterly XXII:3-14.
Thomas, B. (2003). Finding Ovid through Raphael in the Schools of the Tombs. Art on the Line 1:1-11.
Thomas, B. (2001). The lantern of painting: Michelangelo, Daniele da Volterra and the paragone. Apollo CLIV:46-53.
Thomas, B. (1999). The Fortnum Archive in the Ashmolean Museum. Journal of the History of Collections 11:253-268.
Thomas, B. (1999). Hercules and the Hydra: C. D. E. Fortnum, Arthur Evans and the Ashmolean Museum. Journal of the History of Collections 11:159-169.
Book section
Grindle, N. and Thomas, B. (2017). Curating connections in the art history curriculum. in: Developing the Higher Education Curriculum: Research-based Education in Practice. UCL Press, pp. 106-117. Available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/developing-the-higher-education-curriculum.
Thomas, B. (2017). Raphael and the Idea of Drawing. in: Raphael: The Drawings. Ashmolean, pp. 43-55.
Thomas, B. (2012). Paul Coldwell: Passing through.. in: Coldwell, P. ed. Paul Coldwell: A Layered Practice - Graphic Works 1993-2012. University of Kent at Canterbury: Studio 3 Gallery.
Thomas, B. (2012). Disegno: Superficial Line or Universal Design? in: MacCarthy, I. ed. Renaissance Keywords. Oxford: Oxford University Press/Legenda, pp. 27-40.
Thomas, B. (2010). Noble or Commercial? The Early History of Mezzotint in Britain. in: Hunter, M. ed. Printed Images In Early Modern Britain. Essays in Interpretation. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 279-296.
Thomas, B. (2007). Casa Vasari: writing and decorating the artist's house. in: Hendrix, H. ed. Writers' Houses and the Making of Memory. Routledge, pp. 139-148.
Thomas, B. (2003). "The art consists of hiding the art": Castiglione and Raphael. in: Braida, A. and Pieri, G. eds. Image and Word. Reflections of Art and Literature from the Middle Ages to the Present. Legenda/Oxford University Press, pp. 134-150.
Thomas, B. (2000). Artefici and Huomini Intendenti: Questions of Artistic Value in Sixteenth-Century Italy. in: Shepherd, R. and Neher, G. eds. Revaluing Renaissance Art. Ashgate Press, pp. 43-56.
Conference or workshop item
Thomas, B. (2008). The Truest Poetry is the Most Feigning: Edgar Wind on Art and Morals during the Cold War. in: Cultural Memory:Forgetting to Remember/Remembering to Forget, KIASH conference.
Thomas, B. (2008). The Paradox of Mezzotint. in: Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
Thomas, B. (2008). Disegno. in: Renaissance Keywords.
Thomas, B. (2008). Noble or Commercial? The Early History of Mezzotint in Britain. in: British Printed Images to 1700.
Thomas, B. (2008). The Locations of Art in the Mezzotints of Wallerant Vaillant. in: Early Modern Prints Symposium and Study Day.
Thomas, B. (2006). The Many Faces of Lucas van Leyden and Other Stories: Some Historiographical Reflections on the Pictorum aliquot celebrium Germaniae inferioris effigies of Domenicus Lampsonius. in: Courtauld Institute Research Seminar.
Thomas, B. (2006). Framing Giambologna's Rape of a Sabine. in: Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference.
Thomas, B. (2005). The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli by Enea Vico. in: Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference.
Thomas, B. (2005). Casa Vasari: writing and decorating the artist's house. in: Writers' Houses and the Construction of (Trans)National Cultural Memory, ACUME European Thematic Network Conference.
Thomas, B. (2005). Parallel Lives: Dante, Michelangelo and the Reception of the Medici Chapel Sculpture. in: Conception: Reception, 31st Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians.
Thomas, B. (2004). Tracing the Course of Forms: John Obadiah Westwood. in: Connecting Cultures, Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities biannual conference.
Thomas, B. (2003). The Dissemination of Disegno: Baccio Bandinelli and Anton Francesco Doni. in: The Business of Prints in Rome.
Thomas, B. (2002). Finding Ovid through Raphael in the Schools of the Tombs. in: Monkeying about with Antiquity, AHRB Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History.
Thomas, B. (2002). Edgar Wind and Leonardo da Vinci. in: University of Oxford, Renaissance History Seminar.
Thomas, B. (2000). "A beautiful and rare invention": Gian Girolamo Savoldo's so-called portrait of Gaston de Foix. in: University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University and Ashmolean Museum Art History Seminar.
Thomas, B. (2000). The Renaissance artist's sense of history. in: 30th International Congress of the History of Art.
Thomas, B. (1999). Artefici and huomini intendenti: questions of artistic value in sixteenth-century Italy. in: Images and Values, Association of Art Historian's 25th Annual Conference.
Thomas, B. (1996). "The Spaniard's Peccadillo": The Interrelation of Painting and Sculpture in Sixteenth-Century Italy. in: University of Oxford, Renaissance History Seminar.
Show / exhibition
Thomas, B. (2018). Drawing Together. [Exhibition]. Available at: http://courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/what-on/exhibitions-displays/drawing-together.
Whistler, C. and Thomas, B. (2017). Raphael: The Drawings. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. (2016). Dungeness: Philip Hughes with Psiche Hughes. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. (2015). Palindrome: The Sixties Art of Brian Rice and Richard Rome. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. (2014). Marcus Rees Roberts: Winter Journey. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. and El Saqqa, A. (2013). Resilience and Light: Contemporary Palestinian Art. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. (2013). Alfred Drury and the New Sculpture. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. (2013). Paul Coldwell: A Layered Practice - Graphic Works 1992-2012. [Exhibition].
Blackburn, J., Thomas, B. and Hopkinson, M. (2012). John Blackburn: And God Cryed, Studio 3 Gallery, 24 September - 14 December 2012. [Exhibition with exhibition catalogue]. Available at: http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/studio3gallery/.
Thomas, B. (2011). Ana Maria Pacheco: Shadows of the Wanderer. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. and Kear, J. (2010). In Elysium: Prints by James Barry. [Exhibition].
Thomas, B. (2008). The Paradox of Mezzotint. [Prints].
Thomas, B. (2006). Van Dyck pinxit/After Van Dyck. [Prints].
Other
Thomas, B. (2005). Enea Vico, The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli Franklin, D. ed.
Thomas, B. (2004). 'Wind, Edgar Marcel (1900-1971).
Thomas, B. and Clayton, T. (2000). George Clarke Print Collection, Worcester College, Oxford, 2000. [Online]. Available at: http://prints.worc.ox.ac.uk/.
Thomas, B. (1999). Calendar of the Fortnum Papers at the Ashmolean Museum, 1999.
Forthcoming
Thomas, B. (2017). Raphael's drawings: invention, disposition, and demonstration. in: Raffaels Zeichnungen, Internationales Symposium.
Thomas, B. (2017). Raphael: Singular Acts of Drawing. in: Singular Acts: The Role of the Individual in the Transformation of Collective Culture, The Warburg Institute Second Postgraduate Symposium.
Thomas, B. (2016). Freedom and Exile: Edgar Wind and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. in: Crossing Continents: Exile and Expatriate Histories of Art. Routledge.
Total publications in KAR: 70 [See all in KAR]
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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.

 

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Research

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

 

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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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Last Updated: 22/11/2018