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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Lucy Whelan, BA (University of Cambridge), MSt, DPhil (University of Oxford)

(email at

My research centres on modern art in France and Germany. I am interested in seeing the art of this period as a form of knowledge or enquiry, particularly as it relates to questions of visual perception, time, landscape, and the relation between nature and culture. As a result of thinking about how artworks contribute to cultural and intellectual history in specifically painterly and sculptural ways, I have related interests in strategies for close looking, in phenomenological approaches to art, in processes of making and materiality, and in continental philosophy.

My first book project explores some of these questions in relation to the artist Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Presenting a revised understanding of Bonnard’s practice as a painter, draughtsman, and photographer, it explores how his works offer original strategies for decentring the role of vision in representation and establishing art as a system of signs – but crucially from within the tradition of figurative painting. As such it reframes the major modernist innovations of the early twentieth century.

I am now working on a new project that rethinks the art of France and Germany at the end of the Second World War from an ecological perspective. This will be the first book-length study to explore how artists in the period from 1940 to 1960 – including Germaine Richier, Jean Dubuffet, Emil Schumacher, Bernard Schultze and Wols – pioneered practices that explored the interdependence between culture and nature. This project arises partly from my research on Bonnard and landscape, and from exploring museum collections in Germany, but also from my increasing interest in the environmental humanities and ecological approaches to art history, as I attempt to connect my research to my longstanding environmentalism.

Before coming to Durham, I held the Hanseatic Scholarship from the Alfred Töpfer Stiftung at the Humboldt University of Berlin. This followed my DPhil at the University of Oxford (2018), funded by an Oxford Graduate Scholarship.

I enjoy collaborating with other scholars across the humanities. This year I will be running a session on ‘Art History, Theory and Practice for an Ecological Emergency’ at the Association of Art Historians Annual Conference 2020 (rescheduled to 2021).

Some aspects of my work on Bonnard have recently featured in The Conversation, and the Guardian.


Chapter in book

  • Whelan, Lucy (2021). Painting the Present after Impressionism: Pierre Bonnard and Time's Continuous Duration. In Time on a Human Scale: Experiencing the Present in Europe, 1860-1930. Fryxell, Allegra & Wright, Julian

Journal Article

  • (2020). New Light on Pierre Bonnard's Wife and Model Marthe. The Burlington Magazine 162(1406).

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2020: Henry Moore Foundation: Research and Travel Grant (£2000)
  • 2020: Jeffrey Rubinoff Postdoctoral Award:
  • 2017: Alfred Toepfer Stiftung: Hanseatic Scholarship, taken up at the Humboldt University of Berlin
  • 2016: British Federation of Women Graduates: Beryl Mavis Green Scholarship
  • 2016: History Faculty, University of Oxford: Stanhope Research Studentship
  • 2013: University of Oxford: Oxford Graduate Scholarship (doctoral award)