About the Department

The History of the Department

Since the nineteenth century, the University of Oxford has played a significant role in the visual arts.  Although not a subject in its own right, history of art was promoted in Oxford for its value within the type of general education the University aimed to provide for students. It was pursued as strands within history, languages, archaeology, continuing education and practical art, rather than through a dedicated undergraduate or postgraduate curriculum. Then in 1955, the first Professor of the History of Art, Professor Edgar Wind, was appointed by the Faculty of History.  Wind's successor in 1967 was Professor Francis Haskell, who substantiated the link between artists and their social contexts through documentary research on patronage, taste and collecting in early modern Europe. Professor Martin Kemp, the leading Leonardo scholar, was Professor of the History of Art from 1995-2007, and was followed by Professor Craig Clunas who published extensively on the art history and culture of China. In 2020, the department was delighted to welcome the new Professor of the History of Art, Professor Geoffrey Batchen.


Slade Professorship of Fine Art

in 1869, the Slade Lectures were founded in pursuance of the will of art collector and philanthropist Felix Slade. These lectures focused on art historical topics, as they continue to do so today.  The very first of these lectures were delivered by John Ruskin as the Slade Professor of Fine Art in 1870.  Each year, the department plays host to the Slade Professor of Fine Art, who is always a figure of international standing in the study of the visual arts. The Slade Professorship in conjunction with the University’s museums, libraries and college collections helps to foster a wider interest in the history of art.