Thomas Hughes

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Thomas Hughes

Associate Lecturer

I am an art historian specialising in nineteenth-century British art and art writing. I completed my PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2018 on John Ruskin, Walter Pater and the art of the Aesthetic Movement, and I am transforming this into a book called Curious Beauty. Considering how Ruskin was transformed by Pater and Aestheticism, the book argues that some important art historical processes occurred in language that came to be used to describe art, such as the word ‘form’. I am co-editing a book of essays on Ruskin’s Ecologies, coming soon. My research interests include art in Britain and France from 1700, modern conceptualisations of Ancient Greek and Italian Renaissance art, art writing, and theories of art history. I am also interested in large theoretical questions about surface and depth, about the place of the aesthetic in society and about definitions of modernity.


  • PhD, History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art 2014–2018
  • MA, History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art 2012–2013 (Distinction)
  • BA, English Language and Literature, Balliol College, University of Oxford 2009–2012 (First class honours)


  • Associate Lecturer, BA3 Lessons in Critical Interpretation, The Courtauld.
  • Teaching Assistant for BA Foundations, January 2017, The Courtauld.
  • BA3 seminar, ‘Whistler v Ruskin’, The Courtauld, November 2016.
  • Teaching Assistant for MA Methodology October, December 2015, The Courtauld.
  • Teaching Assistant for BA Foundations, February 2016, The Courtauld.

Grants and Awards

  • 2018: Brian Allen Visiting Scholarship, Yale Center for British Art
  • 2017: Stones of Venice research bursary, Ruskin Library, University of Lancaster
  • 2017: British Association of Victorian Studies bursary to attend NAVSA/AVSA conference at NYU Florence, Villa La Pietra
  • 2014–2017: CHASE (Arts and Humanities Research Council) PhD scholarship
  • 2012: Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize, University of Oxford

Conferences etc.

  • Lent Term, Lancaster University: Event series and workshop co-organiser: ‘Ruskin’s Ecologies’. A series of events on Ruskin’s implications for ecological ways of thinking, writing, drawing, looking at art and architecture, gardening and other things, January–March 2019, Ruskin Library, Lancaster University.
  • January 2019: Seminar paper: ‘Surface, Depth and Form in Gothic Naturalism’, the Ruskin Research Seminar, Ruskin Library, Lancaster University.
  • February 2018: Academic and public presentation: ‘Ruskin, Pater and Whistler’, Art in Context presentation at the Yale Center for British Art.
  • December 2017: Conference co-organiser: New Approaches to Ruskin on Art and Architecture, a two-day international conference for early career researchers, The Courtauld Institute of Art and UCL.
  • November 2017: Conference paper: ‘“Ninety Per Cent of the Theory of Impressionism”: Ruskin, Pater and Monet’, at Writing Impressionism into and out of Art History, 1874 to Today, a major international conference at The Courtauld Institute of Art.
  • June 2017, conference paper: ‘The Rose and the Worm: “Realism” in Ruskin, Pater and Nineteenth-Century Painting’, Annual Third-Year Postgraduate Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art.
  • June 2017, Co-organiser and chair, ‘Annual Third-Year Postgraduate Symposium’, The Courtauld Institute of Art.
  • May 2017, conference paper: ‘“An intense consciousness of the present”: Ruskin, Pater and the drawing of modern life’ at NAVSA/AVSA Supernumerary Conference at NYU Florence Villa Pa Pietra. (A significantly expanded version of this paper was given as a Research Lunch at The Paul Mellon Centre, London on 2nd June 2017).
  • March 2017, conference paper: ‘The human landscape: John Ruskin’s theory of drawing and colour’ at Art and the Environment in Britain 1700–Today, Université Rennes 2, Rennes, France. (A significantly expanded version of this paper was given as the Ruskin Research Seminar, Ruskin Library, University of Lancaster, later in the month).
  • October 2015, conference paper: ‘Gothic and Decadent Gothic: surface, depth and “form” in Ruskin and Pater’ at British Association of Victorian Studies annual conference, University of Cardiff, September 2016.
  • December 2016, co-organiser and chair, immediations 2016 symposium and Launch Party, The Courtauld Institute of Art.
  • October 2015, co-organiser and chair, ‘Writing émigré artists into the history of modern British art 1915-1955’, The Courtauld Institute of Art.


(Non-peer reviewed)

  • Thomas Hughes, ‘Ruskin, Whistler and Aestheticism’ in Ruskin, Turner and the Storm-Cloud, eds Suzanne Fagence Cooper and Richard Johns (York: York Art Gallery, Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Paul Holberton), 69–73.
  • Book review: The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, Bloomsbury, London, 2016 by Lars Spuybroek, The Burlington Magazine, July 2017.
  • ‘A review of Caroline Arscott’s lecture “Whistler and Whiteness” at UCL’, The Whistler Society Journal, no. 1, spring 2017, 24–30.
  • Book review: Louisa Waterford and John Ruskin: ‘For you have not Falsely Praised’ by Caroline Ings-Chambers, The Burlington Magazine, no. 1354, vol. 158, January 2016.

Other academic activity

  • Member of the steering committee, Early Career Researcher Network, The Courtauld.
  • Co-editor-in-chief, immediations, (January 2016–December 2016)
  • Editorial board of immediations (October 2015–December 2016)


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