Our research culture


Graffiti on a wall
Art in the city

We have a research community distinctive for its range of youthful and experienced researchers, its close connections with artists and the museum world, and its strong interdisciplinary interests. Within Art History, colleagues work on areas such as:

  • Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art
  • Modern and Contemporary art including architecture
  • Photography and Film

We have particular strengths in early modern, modern and contemporary art, in architectural history, and in such themes as art writing, collecting and collectors, sexuality and identity, surrealism, and art and science.


The Whitworth Parkside Photo by Alan Williams
The Whitworth Parkside. Photo by Alan Williams.

We have long and close connections with the Centre for Museology and with the research interests of our museology colleagues.

Our interdisciplinary interests are manifested by our support for CIDRAL (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Arts and Languages).

We work closely with galleries and museums in the north-west, most notably The Whitworth, The Manchester Museum, and Manchester Art Gallery, but also, elsewhere, with Tate Modern, Tate Britain and many other galleries.

We encourage postdoctoral researchers to come and work in the department and have had notable success in helping them to win awards from the Leverhulme, the British Academy, the Mellon Centre, and the Henry Moore Institute.

Our research culture offers a stimulating and supportive environment in which PhD students can flourish. We encourage applicants across all the range of our specialist interests (including joint supervisions with colleagues from other disciplines).


Bayeux Tapestry
Research case study - Bayeux Tapestry

Art History at Manchester has been re-confirmed as one of the leading departments in the UK for research in the subject. The results of the REF 2014 show that we have not only sustained our already high ranking, but increased it.

The department had 85% of its research activity judged as 'world-leading' (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*). With 42% of our research activity in the top category (4*), we are placed third among art history departments in the UK.

And, with a GPA of 3.26 overall, we are placed fourth among the art history departments represented in the Unit of Assessment. 76% of our outputs were judged to be 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*), with 42% in the higher 4* category.

100% of our research environment was judged to be 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*), with 70% in the higher 4* category. The impact of our research was also judged to be strong, with 100% of our activity graded in the 4* ('outstanding') or 3* ('very considerable') categories.

Visiting Pilkington Professors

We inaugurated a series of Visiting Pilkington Professors of Art History in 2010 in order to attract outstanding practitioners of our discipline to Manchester to deliver lectures and workshops and to advise our research students. Since then our distinguished visitors have included Stephen Bann, Viktor Stoichita, Briony Fer, Martin Kemp, Griselda Pollock, Victor Stoichita, Horst Bredekamp, Malcolm Bull, Cornelia Parker and, in 2018-2019, Claire Bishop. In spring 2020, we will host Craig Clunas.

Whitworth Studies

Whitworth Studies, established in 2015, combines the Department of Art History and Cultural Practices The Whitworth Art Gallery and members of the community, within and beyond the University, to explore common research interests in curating, collections, visual arts practice and art history. Events include lectures, object-based seminars and curatorial dialogues. Upcoming Whitworth Studies events can be found on the Whitworth's website.