Camilla Smith

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests


Research interests

My research on visual culture in Germany converges around broader issues relating to gender and sexuality and questions of morality and legality. I am interested in art, erotica and visual culture that sits at the margins of ‘respectability’ and often the law. My research explores who was producing, consuming and collecting such material and the ways in which the complex and shifting censorship laws in Germany during the early twentieth century shaped critical responses to it. Published research explores how visual culture and sexology intersect, how erotic material is used to mobilise tourism and how representation is used as forms of self-identification and social constructivism.

Recent research has examined how visual culture, sexual politics and forms of dissent play out under authoritarian regimes – specifically under National Socialism.  A monograph on the Weimar artist Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976) exploring these aspects is forthcoming. While Mammen’s Neue Sachlichkeit watercolours are well known, this study focuses on what happened ‘after Weimar’ in the artist’s career up until 1950. A main concern is the artist’s experience under National Socialism. It explores the complex process of creating modern ‘degenerate’ art under the restrictive conditions of inner emigration in Germany. Adopting an ‘everyday history’ (Alltagsgeschichte) approach to dissent, which moves away from narrow understandings of  ‘resistance’ as political acts intended to challenge/overthrow a regime, it argues that inner emigration produced strategic and positional identities of dissent within the private sphere. I was awarded a one-year fellowship in Germany to enable to completion of this monograph.

My current book length project explores the production and consumption of erotic visual culture in inter-war Germany. It examines the role that erotic material played in relation to debates on mass culture by post-enlightenment thinkers, if and how erotica relates to the ‘avant-garde’ and what, if any, are the continuities between the production and consumption of erotica during the Weimar Republic and under the National Socialists.

Previous research has focused on drawings by the Anglo-Swiss artist, Henry Fuseli. An article examining his erotic drawing and their relationship to sexual pathology and fashion appeared in Art History. A further study of Fuseli’s early drawings produced in Zurich also features in Paedagogica Historica. Other research has examined Anglo-Swiss cultural relations during the eighteenth century more broadly, discussing travel, myth making and perceptions of ‘foreignness’ during the enlightenment.

I have contributed essays in exhibition catalogues for the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz; Barbican Art Gallery, London and the Belvedere, Vienna.

Peer reviewed articles have appeared in Art History, Oxford Art Journal and New German Critique. I co-edited a special issue of Art History with Dorothy Price. Weimar’s Others: Art History, Alterity and Regionalism in Inter-War Germany was published in 2019 to celebrate the centenary of the Weimar Republic. A launch and roundtable discussion takes place at The Courtauld Institute of Art in October 2019.

For further publications and details please see publications/research portal on my staff page.

I regularly give conference and research papers including at the Universities of Bristol, Essex, Reading, Nottingham, Yale, Berlin and Erfurt.  I have convened or been part of panels at the CAA, AAH and the AHA. I have given lectures at the IKON Gallery, Tate Britain, the Barber Institute and the Kulturforum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I welcome proposals for research in areas of eighteenth-century Swiss culture and intellectual history and early twentieth-century German and Austrian culture and intellectual history. Research into cultural aspects of the Weimar Republic; National Socialism and forms of artist dissent; women artists; print and illustration; erotica and the censorship of visual material are particularly encouraged.

I am engaged in co-supervision across departments and universities with colleagues working in French and German Studies, History and Sexuality and Gender studies. I welcome research proposals that I can support as part of a supervisory team.

Postgraduate supervision includes:

Women artists and erotica in interwar Germany and France (PhD, AHRC-funded)
The photographic self-portraits of Marianne Breslauer, Eva Besnyö and Lotti Jacobi (MRes, AHRC-funded)
Diagnosing the morphinomane body in fin-de-siècle art (PhD, AHRC-funded)
Modern art and the European department store (PhD)
Arnold Schoenberg’s Gesamtkunstwerk (MA by Research)
Gender and Myth in Estella Canziani’s Travel Guides (MPhil, AHRC-funded)
Henry Fuseli’s Conceptions of ‘Self’ and the Status of Art (PhD)
The eighteenth-century engraved fan leaves of George Wilson (PhD)
Onania and female sexuality in text and image in eighteenth-century England (MRes)