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Modern and contemporary art and theory

Unknown artist after Hongren (Chinese, 1610–1664), Scholar Contemplating Towering Rock, 20th century, hanging scroll; ink and colour on paper

Modern and Contemporary Art is one of the core strengths of the Art History discipline at the OU.

Members of this research group have produced the internationally acclaimed three volume series Art in Theory: an Anthology of Changing Ideas, 1648–1815; 1815–1900; 1900–2000 (edited by Charles Harrison, Paul Wood and Jason Gaiger), which will be continued in the volume Art in Theory: The West and the World edited by Paul Wood and Leon Wainwright (forthcoming).

We welcome applications in areas that correspond with current staff research interests. We look for detailed and well thought-out proposals, which set out specific research questions and outline the originality of your topic or approach. If you would like to discuss your ideas informally before submitting an application, please contact us (details below).

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

We welcome applications to study topics that complement our current research.

Current/recent research projects

  • The Marketing of Contemporary British Art, 1975–1990
  • Elusive Translation: Film and Video in the work of Isaac Julien, Zineb Sedira and Alia Syed
  • Materialist concepts of abstraction, and their British reception
  • Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau
  • Art, Writing and Autobiography
  • Growing up with Modernité: Representations of Childhood and Adolescence in French Painting, 1848–1886
  • American Art Criticism and the Crisis of Art History Writing, 1962–1967
  • Patrick White, Peter Carey and Sidney Nolan: National Myths in Australian Literature and Painting

Potential supervisors

  • Dr Amy Charlesworth – modern and contemporary art and gender studies
  • Dr Renate Dohmen – 19th and 20th century art, including the Indian sub-continent
  • Dr Leon Wainwright – modern and contemporary art; transatlantic exchanges, diasporas and migration, connecting Britain, North America, and the Caribbean; critical theory and phenomenology
  • Mr Paul Wood – modernism; modern and contemporary art; art and theory; cross-cultural influences in Western and ‘non-Western’ art

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

+44 (0)1908 652479

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.