Professor David Peters Corbett

Professor of American Art

The Centre for American Art at The Courtauld was established in September 2016 with the help of a generous grant from the Terra Foundation of American Art. The Centre exists to support and develop research in the field of American art of all periods, from the earliest moment to the present day, and in its international, transnational and global contexts. It hosts a lively programme of lectures, workshops, conferences, and symposia on American art every year.

David Peters Corbett joined the Courtauld in 2016, having been Professor of Art History at the University of York and Professor of Art History and American Studies at UEA. He has been a visiting professor at Yale and has held visiting fellowships at Yale, Clare Hall, Cambridge, St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and the Ecole normale supérieure. Between 2007 and 2012 he was Editor of Art History. At The Courtauld he was founding Director of the Centre for American Art, 2016-2023.

He is interested in American and British art between about 1850 and 1950 and in the historiography and methodology of art history. His publications include The Modernity of English Art, 1914-1930 (Manchester, 1997) and The Geographies of Englishness (co-ed, Yale, 2002), both of which won prizes and the latter of which was a Guardian book of the year; The World in Paint: Modern Art and Visuality in England 1848-1914 (Penn State, 2004); Anglo-American: Artistic Relations between Britain and the US from Colonial Times to the Present (co-ed, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters (Yale, 2011). He is now working on a book to be called “Urban Painting and the Landscape Tradition in America, 1850-1930”.

He has supervised more than 20 PhD students in English and American art, many of whom hold academic positions in the UK, US, and Europe. In the 2023-24 academic year he has 5 students working with him (listed below).


Current PhD supervision

  • Choghakate Kazarian, “Albert Pinkham Ryder: Painting Quickly”, 2019-
  • Frances Varley, “Collecting and Identity in Manchester and Philadelphia, c.1870-1914”, 2020-
  • Rose Pickering, “Memory, Time and the Muse: The Representation of Women in the Work of Edouard Vuillard”, 2021
  • Alice Dodds, “Rural Craft and Women’s Utopianism in Britain 1880 – 1940”, 2023-
  • Zoe Mercer-Golden, “The Arthurian Legends in Public and Popular Art in Great Britain and America, 1840 – 1950”, 2023-

Recent PhD Completions

  • Madeleine Harrison, “Aaron Douglas’ Art Era, 1925-34”, 2021, passed with no corrections
  • Louis Shadwick, “Making Myths: Edward Hopper, American Art and National Identity”, 2022, passed with no corrections

Research interests

  • American Art 1850-1950, particularly painting
  • British Art, 1850-1950
  • Anglo-American Artistic Relations
  • Word and Image relations

Recent publications

Articles on American Art

  • “Exile and Subjectivity: Words and Images in the Writings of Sadakichi Hartmann”, forthcoming , Journal of Art Historiography
  • “The Coast of Experience: The Perceptual Machine of Fitz Henry Lane”, commissioned essay in Richard Read, ed., Colonization and Wilderness in Nineteenth-Century American and Australian Landscape Paintings, University of Chicago Press, 2020
  • “Time and the Aesthetic in the River Paintings of George Caleb Bingham”, American Art, vol 32, no 2 (summer 2018), pp. 2-23
  • “The Ashcan Artists”, in the catalogue for “Once Upon a Time in America: Three Centuries of American Art”, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Foundation Corboud, Cologne, 2018. In German
  • “American Realism and Naturalism”, in Collection Handbook, Terra Foundation for American Art, University of Chicago Press, 2018
  • “‘What Is The Sea If It Isn’t Terrible’: George Bellows on Monhegan Island in 1913’, in Alexander Nemerov, ed., Experience, Chicago University Press/Terra Foundation, 2017
  • ““Decreation and Undoing: George Bellows’ Excavation Paintings, 1907-1909”, Art History vol 40, no 4 (September, 2017), pp. 838-855
  • American Water: Memory and Projection in Mid-Nineteenth Century American Painting”, in Interdisciplinary Encounters: Hidden and Visible Explorations in the Work of Adrian Rifkin, ed. Dana Arnold (I B Taurus, 2015)
  • City Painting in American Art, 1880-1930″, in The Blackwell Companion to American Art, ed John Davis et al (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015)
  • “Painting American Frontiers: ‘Encounter’ and the Borders of American Identity in Nineteenth-Century Art”, Perspective; La revue de l”INHA, actualités de la recherche en histoire de l’art, 2013, no 1, pp.129-15
  • “Life in the Ring: Boxing 1907-1909”, in George Bellows, ed Charles Brock, exhib. cat., National Gallery, Washington DC (DelMonico/ Prestel, 2012)
  • “The Problematic Past in the Work of Charles Sheeler, 1917-1927”, Journal of American Studies, vol 45, no 3 (2011), pp. 559-580
  • “Art, Morality and the National Interest: Theodore Winthrop, Frederic Church, and Martin Johnson Heade at the Tenth Street Studios in 1859”, European Journal of American Studies, vol 30,  no 1 (2011), pp. 57-72
  • Camden Town and Ashcan: Difference, Similarity and the ‘Anglo-American’ in the Work of Walter Sickert and John Sloan”, Art History, vol 34, no 5 (2011), pp. 774-795
  • “Nineteenth Century American and British Art and their Historiographies: A Comparison”, in Barbara Groseclose and Jochen Wierich, eds. National and International perspectives on American Art before 1945 (Penn State University Press, 2009)

Books on British Art

  • British Art and the Cultural Field, 1939-1969, co-ed with Lisa Tickner (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)
  • A Companion to British Art, 1600 to the Present, co-ed with Dana Arnold (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)

Recent grants

  • Terra Foundation for American Art, grant to support the Centre for American Art at The Courtauld
  • Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, 2008-10
  • Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, 2008-10
  • Terra Foundation Senior Research Fellow, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, 2009-10

Other professional activity

  • Member, Advisory Board, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2012-16
  • Jury Panel Member, College Art Association/ Terra Foundation for American Art, International publication Grant, 2015-17