Dr Frances Varley

Associate Lecturer

I was awarded my PhD at The Courtauld in 2024 for a thesis entitled ‘Collecting and Identity in Manchester and Philadelphia, c.1870-1914.’ My research was supervised by Professor David Peters Corbett at the Centre for American Art. My project examined the ways in which collections were used as tools in the negotiation of individual identities in Britain and the United States in the late-nineteenth century. By emphasising comparative case studies, my research considered approaches to collecting that diverged in medium, scale, ideology, and context. It described a plastic and multidimensional landscape of collecting in order to contribute to a plural and polycentric history of collecting.

At The Courtauld, I teach on all aspects of nineteenth-century British and American art. I have participated in conferences organised by the Association for Art History, Tate Britain, and Yale University, and have lectured at the National Gallery, London.


  • PhD: The Courtauld Institute of Art (2020-24)
  • MA History of Art: The Courtauld Institute of Art. Special Option: New York – London – Paris, 1880-1940 (2018-19)
  • BA (Hons) History: Somerville College, University of Oxford (2014-17)

Conferences, Events, and Invited Talks

  • Speaker – ‘William H. Dorsey’s Philadelphia Collection: Archive, Activism, Art’, Association for Art History Annual Conference, organised by the Association for Art History and the University of Bristol (2024)
  • Speaker – ‘Making Meaning in Rossetti’s The Blessed Damozel at the Manchester Art Museum’, The Rossettis: In Relation, organised by Tate Britain, the University of York, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (2023)
  • Speaker – ‘Spaces of Identity: Enriqueta Rylands and the John Rylands Library’, Global New Voices: Art, Identity, and the Body, organised by the Association for Art History’s Doctoral and Early Career Researcher Network (2022)
  • Guest Lecturer – ‘Winslow Homer: An American in Paris’, Winslow Homer: North America, Europe, and the Caribbean World’, The National Gallery (2022)
  • Organiser – Digital Approaches to Histories of Nineteenth-Century American Art, organised by The Courtauld Centre for American Art (2022)
  • Panel Chair – ‘Transmission’, American Art and the Political Imagination, organised by The Courtauld Centre for American Art (2022)
  • Speaker – “Not of the Ordinary Type” – Thomas Coglan Horsfall and the Manchester Art Museum’, Radical Victorians: Race, Labor, Identity, organised by The Frick Pittsburgh, Yale University, and Carnegie Mellon University (2022)


  • 2023-2024: Associate Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art: ‘Body Politics: Art, Gender, Class, and Race in the Victorian Metropolis’ (BA3) and ‘American Art and American Landscape, 1800-1920’ (BA2)
  • 2022-2023: Associate Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art: ‘The Pre-Raphaelites’ (BA1)
  • 2021-2022: Teaching Assistant, The Courtauld Institute of Art: Frameworks (BA2)
  • 2021-2024: Teaching Assistant, The Courtauld Institute of Art: Summer University and Widening Participation Seminar Series (introduction to Art History for Year 12 students from non-selective state schools)

Awards, Grants, and Fellowships

  • ENHANC/Research England Research Trips Award (2024)
  • British Association for Victorian Studies Research Funding Award (2022)
  • Association for Art History Scholarly Research Grant (2021)
  • Terra Foundation Research Travel Grant (2021)
  • Courtauld Scholarship (2020 – 2023)
  • Alice Horsman Award, Somerville College (2018)

Research Interests

  • British and American art, c.1850-1920
  • Regionalism and place
  • Centre/periphery relations
  • Identity and self-definition
  • Collecting and collectors
  • Social and public functions of art
  • Digital art histories
  • Transnational methodologies

Other Activities