David Solkin, FBA - The Courtauld Institute of Art

David Solkin, FBA

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Professor David Solkin, FBA

Professor Emeritus
A photograph of David Solkin

One of the world’s leading authorities on the history of British art, David Solkin taught for eight years at the University of British Columbia before joining The Courtauld in 1986, where he was promoted from Lecturer to Reader in 1993, and to Professor in 2002; eight years later he succeeded the late John House as Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the History of Art. In the autumn of 2007 David became The Courtauld’s first Dean and Deputy Director, a position that he occupied until his retirement at the end of the academic year 2015-16. 

In addition to numerous articles, David has published four important books: Richard Wilson: The Landscape of Reaction (London, Tate Gallery 1982); Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven & London, Yale University Press 1993); Painting out of the Ordinary: Modernity and the Art of Everyday Life in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain (New Haven & London, Yale University Press 2008); and Art in Britain 1660-1815 (New Haven & London, Yale/Pelican History of Art series, 2015) . David was the guest curator of the exhibition Art on The Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836, which took place at The Courtauld Gallery in 2001-2002. He also edited and co-authored the collection of essays that accompanied the exhibition, for which he was awarded the inaugural William M.B. Berger Prize for British art history. Eight years later David curated Turner and the Masters, the hugely successful exhibition which opened at Tate Britain in the autumn of 2009, before going on to the Grand Palais in Paris and the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. 

After completing his monumental Pelican History, David turned his attention to an exhibition of Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits of the artist and his relations, entitled Gainsborough’s Family Album, which opened at London’s National Portrait Gallery in autumn 2018 before travelling on to The Princeton University Art Museum.  His current projects include a catalogue of the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century paintings in the permanent collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and an exhibition of Henry Fuseli’s drawings of women, provisionally entitled Fuseli, Fantasy, and the Feminine, scheduled for The Courtauld Gallery and the Pierpont Morgan Library in 2022-23.

David Solkin was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2012.

PhD Supervision

Recently completed

  • Tom Ardill, ‘Between God, Art, and Mammon: Religious Painting as Public Spectacle in Britain, c. 1800-1850’ (This thesis jointly supervised with Dr Martin Myrone of Tate Britain, under the aegis of the Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council)
  • John Chu, ‘The Fortunes of Fancy Painting in Eighteenth-Century England’ (with Prof. Katie Scott) (2014)
  • Clare Backhouse, ‘Seventeenth-Century Print and Dress: The Ballads of the Samuel Pepys Collection’ (2013)
  • Andrey Shabanov, ‘The Peredvizhniki, or Wanderers: The Social History of the Artists’ Movement in Late Nineteenth-Century Russia’ (2013)
  • Kate Grandjouan, ‘Close Encounters: French Identities in English Graphic Satire c.1730-1790’ (2010)
  • Philippa Simpson, ‘Exposing the British School: The Rise of Old Master Exhibition Culture in London c.1793-1825’ (2009)

Research interests

  • Eighteenth-century British drawing practices
  • The art of J.M.W. Turner
  • British art c.1660-1830
  • Early Nineteenth-Century London as World City: Spaces and Representations

Recent publications

Books and edited book

  • Gainsborough’s Family Album, National Portrait Gallery, London 2018

  • solkin-pelican-coverArt in Britain 1660-1815, The Yale University Press Pelican History of Art series, New Haven and London 2015


  • cover-turnerEd. and co-author, Turner and the Masters, Tate, London 2009, 240 pp. Translated into French as Turner et ses Peintres, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris 2010; and into Spanish as Turner y los Maestros, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2010. Shortlisted for William M.B. Berger Prize for British Art History for 2009.

  • cover-paintingPainting out of the Ordinary: Modernity and the Art of Everyday Life in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2008, 270pp.

Essays, articles and reviews

  • ‘The English Revolution and the Revolution of History Painting: The Bowles Brothers’ Life of Charles I’, in Mark Hallett, Nigel Llewellyn and Martin Myrone, eds., Court Country City: British Art 1660-1735, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2016
  • ‘From Oddity to Odd Man Out: James Barry’s Nineteenth-Century Critical Legacy’, in Tom Dunne & William L. Pressly, eds., James Barry, 1741-1806: History Painter, Ashgate, Aldershot and Burlington, VT 2010, 11-22
  • ‘‘Conquest, usurpation, wealth, luxury, famine’: Mortimer’s Banditti and the Anxieties of Empire’, in Art and the British Empire, Timothy Barringer, Geoffrey Quilley and Douglas Fordham eds., Manchester University Press, Manchester 2006, 120-38.
  • Joseph Wright of Derby and the Sublime Art of Labor’, Representations 83 (Summer 2003), 167-94.

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