Kate Nichols

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

Four main concerns animate my research. First, viewer interactions with ancient and modern sculpture and painting in the new Victorian contexts of art museums, International Exhibitions, and emergent consumer and sporting cultures in Britain and Australia. Second, the depiction and formation of race, class, gender and sexuality in Victorian painting c.1865-1912. Third, the relationship between art, labour and new technologies in the long nineteenth century. More recently, I have become interested in the ways in which art works establish and blur boundaries between humans and other animals; I’ve co-curated (with Dr Sam Shaw) related exhibitions at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

I am currently working on a book project provisionally titled 'A Global History of Victorian Art'. This explores the mobility of both Victorian paintings and the art materials, models (human and animal) and objects essential to their fabrication, in the context of British imperialism. In 2017 I was awarded a Universitas 21 fellowship at the University of Melbourne to undertake provisional archival research for this project, and I’m busy writing it up at the moment.

My first book, Greece and Rome at the Crystal Palace: Classical Sculpture and Modern Britain, 1854-1936, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. It examines the social, political, and aesthetic role of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture in modern Britain, the first in-depth assessment of how classical art figured in debates over design reform, taste, beauty and morality, class and gender, and race and imperialism.


I came to Birmingham from Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH, Cambridge), where I was a postdoctoral research fellow on the European Research Council Funded project 'The Bible and Antiquity in Nineteenth-­Century Culture'. I studied for my PhD in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College London (2009). Since then, I have been a Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Bristol's Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition; Teaching Fellow in the History of Art at the University of York; Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and Teaching Fellow in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I would welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students hoping to undertake research relating to my research and teaching interests in British art (especially in the Victorian period); classical reception studies; the history and theory of museums; art and animals; art and imperialism; art and industry.

Current Research Students
• Clare Matthews, Classical Culture in Nineteenth-Century Industrial Cities, AHRC M3C funded, 2017- (co-supervised with Dr Mark Bradley, Classics, Nottingham University)
• Katy Owen, Making an Exhibition of Herself. Professional Female Artists and Birmingham’s Art Culture from 1860 to 1920, College of Arts and Law Doctoral Scholarship, 2018- (co-supervised with Dr Zoë Thomas, History).
• Zoe Fox, The Political Power of Urban Transformation: A Comparative Historical Analysis of the Augustan and Fascist Building Programs in the Heart of Rome’s Centro Storico, 2020- (co-supervised with Professor Diana Spencer, Classics/LANS, and Dr Lloyd Jenkins, Geography/LANS)

Previous Research Students
• Katherine Reeve, Making a Modern Miranda: How Shakespeare’s Miranda became a figure of Victorian modernity, with reference to John Bell’s Parian statuette, Miranda (1850), MRes, 2016-18 (co-supervised with Dr Rebecca N. Mitchell, English, University of Birmingham)
• Rebecca Savage, The Great Western Rail Posters of 1930-39, College of Arts and Law funded, 2017-18 (co-supervised with Dr Claire Jones)