Department of History of Art

If you wish to get in touch with our administrative staff, please see the admin staff contact page.

Image of Fintan Cullen

Fintan Cullen

Professor of Art History, Faculty of Arts


Expertise Summary

Fintan Cullen's main research area is the art and representation of Ireland from the eighteenth century to the twentieth century. His publications display a long interest in exploring the representation of Ireland's colonial relationship with Britain. Although Ireland is the focus of much of his work, in a wider sense he is interested in the relationship between national identity and art production and he welcomes applications from research students interested in exploring these themes in a variety of cultures or historical periods. His present research topic is on art and migration in the long nineteenth century with a particular focus on Ireland and the Irish diaspora.

Before coming to Nottingham in 1994 (promoted to a Chair in Art History in 2005), Fintan Cullen had worked as a Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and at Staffordshire University as well as spending time as a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery of Ireland (1979-1980). As a graduate student at Yale he worked as an intern in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Yale Centre for British Art and as an educational adviser to the docent programme. Apart from spending time in New Haven, Connecticut as a graduate student at Yale (1982-87), Fintan Cullen has also lived for at least two years in Italy (1976-7 and 1978-9: working as a language teacher, and later researching towards a MA for UCD); he also lived in Japan for eighteen months studying aspects of Japanese art (Kobe University, 1980-82).

Presently, he is working on an article discussing in comparative terms the monuments to those who died on both sides, the nationalist and the British army during the Irish rebellion in 1916. For September 2017, he is co-organising with Dr Richard Gaunt of the University of Nottingham's Department of History a day long symposium on the role of graphic satire in the UK in the nineteenth century.

Professional activities

For many years, Fintan Cullen has been an active member of the UK Association of Art Historians and in time has served as convener of an Annual Conference (Trinity College Dublin, 1990), Honorary Secretary of the Association (1996-9) and Deputy Editor of Art History (2002-2007). He has also acted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Peer Review College. He has been a member of the executive committee of the Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland and has served as a judge for the postgraduate essay prize sponsored by the British Association for Irish Studies.

From August 2012- July 2015, Fintan Cullen was on secondment from the University of Nottingham UK to the University of Nottingham Ningbo China as Dean of Arts and Education.

He is now back in the UK and fully involved in the Department of the History of Art.


Professor Cullen welcomes enquiries on research supervision on all aspects of Irish and British art and visual culture from 1750 onwards. He particularly welcomes enquiries relating to postcolonial cultures, centres and peripheries and the politics of display as well as on the relationship between art and migration.

Teaching Summary

I teach a range of modules, here are some with a focus on those open to undergraduates:

The Politics of Display (level 2) is aimed at students who wish to ask questions about institutional histories and cultural significance. Students examine individual institutions and investigate issues such as national identity and the role of gender as an influence on display. The module is interdisciplinary in focus as it combines art history, cultural history and critical theory. The module aims to develop students' ability to interpret visual, textual and historical evidence relating to the political role of art institutions.

Art and National Identity in the Nineteenth Century (level 2) examines the role of national consciousness in the creation of painting and sculpture of the nineteenth century. The concentration is on the UK (which includes discussion of Scotland and Ireland) but reference is made to art produced in France and elsewhere. Topics covered include, regional diversity, national monuments, the monarchy, urban versus rural, woman and allegory.

Centres and Peripheries in British Art (levels 3) examines the visual history of the nations of the British Isles, England, Ireland, Scotland and to a degree Wales. The historical span is from the late eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century and focuses on themes such as the representation of Scotland and its relationship with the centre, London; the representation of Ireland and its relationship with the centre, London; how art was made available in London; the creation of stereotypes.

Painting America 1700-1900 (level 1) examines the establishment of a distinctly American visual culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The module is not encyclopaedic but explores a variety of art historical methodologies so as to arrive at a more critical understanding of works of art, artistic movements and American cultural development during the period.

Buying and selling art in the eighteenth century (level 3) focuses on the role of image making in Britain and Ireland during the eighteenth century. The main issues discussed are art and consumption, London versus the rest of these islands, the representation of the bourgeoisie, the dominance of Classicism, representing the 'other'. The works of a number of individual artists will be discussed in detail, such as William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Joseph Wright and Angelika Kauffman.

Research Summary

In 2012 published Ireland on Show: Art, Union and Nationhood (Ashgate, 2012 /9781409431091). Book discusses the role of visual spectacle and the display of art in an evolving modern nation. This… read more

Current Research

In 2012 published Ireland on Show: Art, Union and Nationhood (Ashgate, 2012 /9781409431091). Book discusses the role of visual spectacle and the display of art in an evolving modern nation. This study looks at exhibition and museum history in Ireland (and of Ireland abroad), from the beginnings of public exhibitions in the eighteenth century through to the Hugh Lane's gift of nineteenth-century French paintings to the city of Dublin in the early twentieth century. Alternative forms of display beyond exhibition rooms are also examined. These alternative forms of display include such disparate visual spectacles as public panoramas of imperial victories which travelled around the island of Ireland in the early nineteenth century to magic lantern distribution of more local political events in the 1880s and 1890s. The aim of the book is to discuss and examine access to and the display of visual material in Ireland and amongst the Irish diaspora during the period 1800 to c.1920. Various sections of the proposed book have been appearing in essay form over the past few years: see History Workshop Journal (2002), Dana Arnold's The Aesthetics of Britishness (2004), the Irish Review (2007), Field Day Review (2008) and Dublin James Joyce Journal (2009).

Fintan Cullen speaks frequently at international conferences and most recently gave a plenary address at the annual conference of the Irish Museums Association in Killarney, Co Kerry. In September 2010, he spoke at the annual conference Reserach Society for Victorian Periodicals at Yale University (USA). Earlier in 2010 he spoke in a session on imperial tensions and display at the annual conference of the Association of Art Historians, University of Glasgow, April 2010. In November 2010 he gave a plenary at the Ireland and Modernity conference at Queen's University Belfast while in March 2011 he gave a seminar paper at Universite Lille 3 Charles de Gaulle. He also participated in a workshop on the historiography of nineteenth-century Ireland at University College Cork (May 2011).

In 2008 he spoke at the Society for Research on Nineteenth-Century Ireland annual conference at the University of Limerick and he was invited to speak to the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland (Dublin) and read a paper at the annual conference of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies (St Michael's College, University of Toronto). Recently, he spoke at a conference at the University of Manchester investigating the 150th anniversary of the great Art-Treasures Exhibition in Manchester (1857). In the past he has spoken at the Association of Art Historians annual meeting (Belfast, 2007), the National Portrait Gallery, London (Facing Portraiture, 2002) and Regency Portraiture (2003), the Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians, London, April 2003 in the session, 'Dislocution: Expressing displacement in visual culture' and at the AAH annual conference in Nottingham in 2004. In 2004, he and Art History Editor, Professor Deborah Cherry (University of Amsterdam), co-hosted a session at CAA Seattle entitled 'Border Crossings in Art History: Britain and the United States, 1970s to the present'. Together with Deborah Cherry, in January 2007, he also co-hosted a two day conference on Display and Spectacle that has now appeared in journal and book form: Art History, September 2007 and as Spectacle and Display (Blackwells, 2008).

More recently has spoken at conferences and symposia at the University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool (2011); University College Cork (2012); Liverpool Hope University (2013); Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians, London (2014); Universities of Melbourne and New England, Australia (2015).

Past Research

In autumn 2011 published an essay on Thomas Farrell's marble monument to Paul Cardinal Cullen in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral as part of a book of essays published by Four Courts Press (Dublin), eds., Daire Keogh & Albert McDonnell. This essay originated as a talk at an international conference on Cardinal Cullen held in Dublin in September 2009. In 2010 I published an essay on Joshua Reynolds' portrait of the Irish-American, Charles Carroll (1763; Yale Center for British Art) in the journal of the Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society (vol. 25, 2010, pp. 149-160). Other recent publications include an essay on Brian Tolle's monument to the victims of the 1840s famine that was published in Wasafiri, summer 2010 .

As Deputy Editor of Art History (2002-07), I was involved in the co-editing of two special issues which became free-standing books published by Blackwell's. First to appear was an issue on the theme of Location (journal, late 2006; book, early 2007). This was followed in 2007 with a publication on the theme of 'Display and Spectacle' (journal late 2007; book in 2008). 'Display and Spectacle' was also the topic of an international conference convened by the editors of Art History (Deborah Cherry and Fintan Cullen) held at the University of Nottingham in January 2007.

Contributed conference paper to session on 'Irish Studies and History of Art: impossible dialogues' at Association of Art Historians' annual conference in Belfast, April 2007. Paper with working title of 'Irish visual studies and interdisciplinarity' (session convener, Lucy Cotter).

Contributed an essay to exhibition catalogue on Irish painting 1800-1945 to be published by Phoenix Art Museum, Spring 2007.

Contributed an essay and catalogue entries on Daniel Maclise for an exhibition catalogue to be published by the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, 2008.

As co-editor of Art History, co-hosted a session at CAA Seattle entitled 'Border Crossings in Art History: Britain and the United States, 1970s to the present'.

Invited by National Portrait Gallery, London to co-curate an exhibition with Professor R.F. Foster (University of Oxford), Conquering England: Ireland in Victorian London. The exhibition ran from March to June 2005 and displayed about 80 objects as well as being accompanied by a catalogue consisting of two essays and brief entires on the exhibits.

In 2004, published The Irish Face. Redefining the Irish Portrait (London, National Portrait Gallery).

In 2005, co-edited A Shared Legacy. Essays on Irish and Scottish Art and Visual Culture (Ashgate). This collection of essays consisted of twelve essays by academics from Ireland, Scotland, England and North America.

In 2005 contributed an essay and exhibition entries to catalogue of an exhibition on James Barry: James Barry 1741-1806 'The Great Historical Painter', ed. Tom Dunne (Crawford Art Gallery and Gandon Editions, 2005).

Contributed essay on recent art historiacal research to Nineteenth-Century Ireland. A Guide to Recent Research, eds., Laurence M. Geary & Margaret Kelleher (UCD Press, Dublin, 2005)

Contributed essay on the visual arts to The Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Culture, eds., Joe Cleary and Claire Connolly (Cambridge UP, 2005)

Earlier publications include Sources in Irish Art: A Reader (Cork, 2000) and Visual Politics: The Representation of Ireland 1750-1930 (Cork, 1997)

Future Research

I am presently working on a study on the theme of art and migration, Ireland and exile. The aim of my research project is to use the example of Ireland in the emerging field of exilic art history. The focus will be on the long nineteenth century. The discipline of art history is too often bound by national borders; it needs to redefine itself by acknowledging the importance of the diaspora through the role of migration and its relationship to production. This research project continues career-long aspiration to redefine what is meant by Irish art, going beyond the discussion of Irish-born artists to consider the visualisation of an exilic consciousness as it pervades Irish issues, personages or phenomena.

Recent publications

•FINTAN CULLEN, 2016. 'Parliament as Theatre: Francis Wheatley's The Irish House of Commons Revisited'. In: Jane Fenlon, Ruth Kenny, Caroline Pegum, Brendan Rooney, eds., Irish Fine Art in the Early Modern Period: new Perspectives on Artistic Practice, 1620-1820. (Irish Academic Press), pp. 2-29.

•FINTAN CULLEN, 2017. 'Migrating Objects: John Henry Foley and Empire'. In: Kathrin Wagner, Jessica David and Matej Klemenčič, eds., Artists and Migration 1400-1850, Britain, Europe and Beyond. (Cambridge Scholars Publishing).

Department of History of Art

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details