Who’s Who: Emma Barker

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I’m Emma Barker, Senior Lecturer in Art History. I’ve worked at the OU for nearly 25 years  and have worked on most of the art history modules that have been produced during that time, including A216 Art and its Histories, AA318 Art of the Twentieth Century, A226 Exploring Art and Visual Culture, A344 Art and its Global Histories as well as several MA modules. I’ve also contributed to the interdisciplinary modules, A207 From Enlightenment to Romanticism and A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture.

What are your main research areas?

My research focuses on French art of the late seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries, but I have also written about British art of the same period. I have a particular interest in parallel trends in French and British art during the ‘long eighteenth century’, such as the wide-ranging cultural phenomenon known as sentimentalism; changing representations of women, children and the family; and the image of the artist and the idea of genius in the Romantic era.

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

I have made two Open Arts Objects film that each focus on a single work of art. I’ve made one about Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Lady Taking Tea (1735), which relates to my research on the representation of women. It also draws on work that I did for A344 Art and its Global Histories, because of the impact of trade with the Far East evident in the painting. I’ve also made one about Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus (1601), which relates to a chapter that I wrote for A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture, in which I used this picture to develop students’ skills of visual analysis and to explore changing conceptions of artistic value.

I’ve also made a film for the Critical Terms strand exploring the term ‘Classicism’, which relates to some of the teaching material in A344 about how classicism was spread throughout the world during the eras of colonialism and imperialism.

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

As with any teaching around a work of art, having to talk about it to an audience really focuses the mind on how the work itself addresses an audience.

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

My recent publications include an essay entitled ‘No Picture so Charming’: The Family Portrait in Eighteenth-Century France’, Art History, vol. 40 (3), 2017, pp. 526-53. Some of the portraits I discuss in this essay borrow from domestic scenes such as Chardin’s Lady Taking Tea. One of these portraits, for example, shows a family taking their morning coffee.

What got you interested in Art History? Fun fact?

When everyone in my class at primary school was asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up, I drew an artist at an easel. Sadly, the secondary school I later went to did not take art very seriously, so instead I became an art historian. I think I am probably a better art historian than I would have been an artist.

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.

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