Caroline Villers Research Fellowship - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Caroline Villers Research Fellowship

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Caroline Villers Research Fellowship



Caroline Villers Research Fellowship

"What mattered most to Caroline was the exploration of the ways in which works of art were made, the processes of artistic creation. What fascinated her was the notion of artistic intention made tangible in the physical reality of the work of art. In her lectures, she conjured up the unique, essential combination of hand and eye, intellect and circumstance, resulting in a seminal work of art."

David Bomford

clare shepherdThe Courtauld, together with the Trustees of the Caroline Villers Research Fellowship, have established a Research Fellowship in memory of Caroline Villers.  The purpose of the Fellowship is to promote research in the interdisciplinary field of Technical Art History: the application of technical, scientific and/or historical methods, together with close observation, to the study of the physical nature of the work of art in relation to issues of making, change, conservation and/or display.

The Fellowship is advertised annually, in the spring, and interviews take place in early July. Research proposals for the Fellowship are welcomed from researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplines relating to the study and conservation of works of art. The Fellowship is also open to applicants in permanent employment wishing to take leave of absence to work on a project. The maximum period of tenure is 9 months, but requests for shorter projects are also considered. The Fellow is based at The Courtauld Institute of Art although collaborations with other institutions are encouraged.

2016-7 Caroline Villers Fellow: Caroline Rae

Dr. Caroline Rae holds a Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings and a PhD in Technical Art History from The Courtauld, the latter completed as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain research project, jointly hosted by the National Portrait Gallery. Prior to these she completed an MA in Fine Art (Art History and Painting) at the University of Edinburgh. Caroline has been a Teaching Assistant and Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld over the past few years and was a Visiting Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. She has published on a number of Tudor artists as well as on Henry Fuseli. Caroline has undertaken practical conservation, technical analysis and condition checking for various studios, laboratories, galleries and collections in London and Edinburgh. She is on the Council of the British Association of Paintings Conservator Restorers and on the list of approved freelance conservators at the National Galleries of Scotland. She is passionate about using the techniques of technical art history to drive deeper insights into paintings and their contexts of production and consumption.

Caroline’s PhD investigated Anglo-Netherlandish workshop practice from the 1580s to the early 1600s, with a focus on the works of John de Critz the Elder and Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Besides technical analysis and assessment of their respective oeuvres, she looked at broader questions of mutual influence and cross-cultural dialogue between emigre and native English artists in terms of technique, workshop practice and iconography.

As Caroline Villers Fellow, Caroline is extending this research to look at similar questions in relation to two Scoto-Netherlandish artists, and the project is therefore being jointly hosted by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS). Using established methods of technical art history, the project is examining the materials and techniques of Adrian Vanson and Adam de Colone, two Netherlandish artists who worked in Jacobean Scotland.

Religious persecution and fortuitous trade relationships led many Protestant Netherlanders to emigrate to Britain in the sixteenth century. Vanson and de Colone are notable amongst this group as they were patronised by the highest echelons of society: Vanson was James VI’s court painter and de Colone, who also painted the king, was the most prominent painter working in Scotland in the 1620s. Thomson, whose publications remain a seminal source, constructed their core oeuvres in the 1970s. However, little technical examination has been undertaken on their works to date and significant questions of identity and attribution remain unanswered and have been the subject of recent academic debate. The project is focussing on the technical examination of thirteen paintings in the NGS collection with the aim of clarifying issues of workshop practice, attribution and identity. A further thirteen paintings are being examined in situ at other collections in Scotland and Rotterdam.


  • Introductory lectures at The Courtauld and the NGS setting out the goals, scope and methodology of the project
  • Regular updates on both the NGS and Courtauld research blogs
  • Lectures providing an overview of findings at The Courtauld and the NGS
  • Technical reports on analysed paintings
  • An exhibition proposal for a three-year exhibition of key paintings and findings of the project has been approved by the National Galleries of Scotland from June 2017
  • Contributions to a planned 2018 NGS exhibition on James VI and I
  • Publication of research findings in due course
2016-7 Caroline Villers Associate Fellow: Anna Koopstra

Dr Anna Koopstra studied art history at the University of Groningen (1998-2004), specialising in Early Netherlandish painting and the technical investigation of paintings. In 2016 she completed a PhD at The Courtauld on the making, meaning and patronage of the works of Jean Bellegambe, who was active in Douai, in the first three decades of the early sixteenth century. From 2005-08 Anna worked as an assistant-curator and research associate at the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum in Aachen; from 2008-10 she was a Slifka Foundation Interdisciplinary Fellow at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She is currently the Simon Sainsbury Curatorial Assistant, Paintings before 1500 at the National Gallery.

Her research project as Associate Caroline Villers Fellow focuses on the signed and dated (1624) Saint Jerome in his Study (The Courtauld Gallery) by Hendrik van Steenwijck the Younger, which was made while the artist was based in London. Through a technical examination of the painting it sets out to answer art historical questions concerning its genesis, artistic context, function and audience. In addition, the project intends to contribute to the available knowledge about the artist’s working methods.

Caroline Villers was Director of the Department of Conservation and Technology at The Courtauld Institute of Art, 1999-2004.

Caroline Villers had been associated with The Courtauld since 1970 when, following a degree in Modern History at Oxford, she came to take the two-year MA course, specialising in the Renaissance.  In 1974-76, after working as Assistant Curator of  Prints and Drawings at the London Museum, she returned to The Courtauld to study for the Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings. Her subsequent employment was all in the Department of Conservation and Technology: as Technical Assistant (1976-80); Lecturer (1980-98); Senior Lecturer (1998 onwards); and Director of the Department (1999-2004).  In addition to her deep commitment to teaching within the Department, greatly valued by successive generations of students, and her activities as a supervisor of doctoral research, Caroline was involved in teaching many students enrolled in The Courtauld’s History of Art courses, and in initiating collaborative research projects that involved colleagues from different parts of the Institute.  Numerous people who encountered her, even if only briefly, were influenced by the subtlety and clarity of her thought.  Caroline’s fierce loyalty to the Department of Conservation and Technology, and to the Institute as a whole, was manifested through her involvement in many committees and project groups.  In recent years she played a key role in a succession of committees before, during and after the Courtauld’s establishment as an independent college: the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee (elected staff representative); participant in the strategy and planning exercises debating the future form of the Institute; elected staff member of the Governing Board of The Courtauld from its inception; elected staff representative on the Nominations Committee for the appointment of the Director, 2003.  Caroline’s colleagues placed a great deal of trust in her probity and in her determination in advancing a case.

Caroline Villers’ involvement in the wider world of conservation-restoration, and its intersection with art history and museums, was also vigorous.  She held posts on several professional bodies, including, recently: Vice-Chair of the Conservation Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM-CC):  Member of the ICOM-CC working groups ‘Paintings I’ and ‘History and Theory of Conservation-Restoration’; Member of the Academic Advisory Board of the AHRB Research Centre for Textile Conservation and Textile Studies; Fellow, and Delegated Member for the council of the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC).  She served as editor of The Conservator (1992-96), and Studies in Conservation (1999 onwards) and was a member of the preprints committee for the ICOM-CC meetings in Dublin (1997-98), Lyon (1998-99) and Rio de Janeiro (2001-02).  She was also active in organising conferences.  Besides involvement in professional meetings such as those organised by the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC), she instigated events that drew together those working in the fields of conservation-restoration, the technical examination and scientific investigation of works of art, art history, and economic history.  Chief among these were Technology and the Art Historian (1985) and Paintings on Textile Supports in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries: Technique, Function, Display(1998), both held at The Courtauld Institute of Art.  Most recently she planned, with Jo Kirby of the National Gallery, and Susie Nash of The Courtauld Institute, a conference on the European Trade in Painters’ Materials to 1700, to be held in February 2005.  ‘Technical’ Art History is an interdisciplinary field of enquiry that has generated increasing excitement in recent years.  Caroline’s activities, through teaching, publication, and the promotion of research projects through a wide network of personal contacts, constituted a very significant and distinctive contribution to scholarship.

Caroline Villers was passionately concerned with the care, display and better understanding of The Courtauld Gallery paintings.  During the 1980s she organised a series of exhibitions within the Gallery, focusing on individual works.  Her longer-term aim, towards which (together with colleagues in The Courtauld) she had taken initial steps, was the production of a complete catalogue of the Gallery paintings.  She published on a number of paintings that belonged to The Courtauld or had come to the Conservation Department for treatment.  She often collaborated in her publications, either with colleagues, or with students whose projects she had supervised, and she was generous, as an editor, in bringing to fruition the work of other scholars.  She published a series of articles on canvas supports and linings, the majority written jointly with Gerry Hedley (reprinted in Measured Opinions, 1993) and, recently, with Paul Ackroyd and Alan Phenix.  She wrote both for her colleagues in conservation-restoration and for a wider audience of those involved in art history and in the museum world.

Principal publications of Caroline Villers
  • ‘Impressions of Change’ (with G. Hedley and R. Bruce-Gardner) in the exhibition catalogue Impressions of Change.  Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces: The Courtauld Collection, London 1987, pp. 21-34
  • ‘Evaluations of Colour Change:  Intention, Interpretation and Lighting’, in Measured Opinions: Collected Papers on the conservation of Paintings by Gerry Hedley, ed. C. Villers, London, 1993, pp. 145-48
  • ‘Painting on Canvas in Fourteenth-Century Italy, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 58, 1995, pp. 333-59; ‘The Entombment Triptych in the Courtauld Institute Galleries’, in Robert Campin: New Directions in Scholarship, ed. S. Foister and S. Nash, London, 1996, pp. 27-35 (with R. Bruce-Gardner)
  • ‘A Fourteenth-Century German Triptych in the Courtauld Gallery’, Burlington Magazine, 139, 1997, pp. 667-75 (with C. Reynolds and G. van Heemstra)
  • ‘Simone dei Crocefissi’s Dream of the Virgin’, Burlington Magazine, 142, 2000, pp. 481-86 (with R. Gibbs, R. Hellen, A. King)
  • ‘Four Scenes of the Passion Painted in Florence around 1400’, in The Fabric of Images: European Paintings on Textile Supports in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, ed. C. Villers, London, 2000, pp. 1-10
  • ‘Observations on the Coronation of the Virgin attributed to Guido da Siena in the Courtauld Institute Gallery, London’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 65, 2002, pp. 289-302 (with A. Lehner)
  • Lining Paintings, ed. C. Villers, London 2003;  ‘La Madonna botticelliana del visconte Lee di Fareham’, in the exhibition catalogue Falsi d’autore: Icilio Federico Joni e la cultura del Falso tra Otto e Novecento, ed. G. Mazzoni, Siena, 2004, pp. 47-58.
List of fellowship trustees

David Bomford
Sir Robert Bruce-Gardner
Dr. Aviva Burnstock
Dr. Joanna Cannon
Dr. Hero Lotti
Maro McNab
Robert McNab
Dr. Susie Nash
Professor Patricia Rubin
Edwina Sassoon

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