Professor Gemma Blackshaw
- Senior Tutor (Research)
- Fine Arts & Humanities Pathway
Gemma is an interdisciplinary scholar, writer and curator who works on the intersection of modern and contemporary art and literature with questions of health and care.
Gemma is Senior Tutor for Research within the School of Arts & Humanities (SoAH). She leads the Fine Art & Humanities Pathway for MRes and supervises PhD projects, supporting postgraduate students’ practice-based research, especially in relation to their creative-critical writing. She is the originator of SoAH’s CARE postgraduate group, which meets to develop creative research methods that attend to the care of bodies, materials and environments across time, and co-editor of its two anthologies of 2021 and 2022.
Prior to working at the RCA, Gemma was Professor of Art History at University of Plymouth where she coordinated research for Art History (2013–18); led the MRes Art History (2013–15) and the BA Art History programmes (2005–8; 2011–13); and co-led the BA Joint-Honours Fine Art & Art History programme (2005–08, 2011–13).
School, Centre or Area
Research interests, fields and methods include:
- Questions of sickness, gender and sexuality in modern and contemporary art and visual culture
- Feminist approaches to art and visual culture in ‘Vienna 1900’
- Creative research methods as means of caring/repairing in and across time
- Critical and experimental approaches to the medical humanities
- Histories, practices and theories of correspondence, and of the archive
- Creative nonfiction which engages with archival work, biography, history, theory and criticism
Performative writing and reading, voice recording and layering
Gemma has a history of collaboration with academics, artists, filmmakers, designers, galleries and museums on the curation of high-profile, international-loan exhibitions based on her research interests. These include: The Body Electric (Leopold Museum, 2021); The Nakeds (De la Warr Pavilion, 2015; Drawing Room, 2014); The Portrait in Vienna 1900 (National Gallery, 2013); Madness and Modernity (Wien Museum, 2010; Wellcome Collection, 2009). A practising art-writer, writing for as well to and through artists, her catalogue-essays often develop in conversation and correspondence with artists including Esther Teichmann (2021), Marita Fraser (2021), Rebecca Fortnum (2020), (Chantal Joffe (2018; 2016), and Nicola Tyson (2014).
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) Insight Grant for Edvard Munch, Modernism, and Medicine, led by Principal Investigator Dr Allison Morehead (Queen’s University, Canada), 2017-2021.
Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for a single-authored book on portraiture in ‘Vienna 1900’; the book became the exhibition and catalogue Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 (National Gallery, London, 2013-14), 2010-11.
Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) Major Research Project Grant for Madness and Modernity: Art, Architecture and Mental Illness in Vienna and the Habsburg Empire 1890-1914, led by Principal Investigator Dr Leslie Topp (Birkbeck, University of London), 2004-08.
Current and recent projects
BESSIE (in development)
An epistolary biography-in-pieces of a English show girl central to the circles of Viennese modernism before becoming peripheral with chronic illness. Working with the traces of her increasingly sick body in painting, paper ephemera and marginalia in research archives and special collections, museums and private collections, the book reflects on the risky, reparative pleasures of piecing together a precarious yet always rebellious life, and on feminist art historical research as an expression of lovesick attachment to the ever-elusive object of study. Work in progress from BESSIE has been published in MAP Magazine (2022).
Discovering L.A. (in development)
Further to the discovery of a novel by one of Egon Schiele’s lovers previously known only as ‘L.A.’, who he drew while pregnant and in care at Vienna’s Women’s Clinic, this project draws together a ‘sick timeline’ of research conducted through two highly medicalised pregnancies, and correspondence with literary translator Natasha Lehrer, who reads, annotates and relays L.A.’s book (available only in French) in English. Drawing upon autotheory, Sick Woman Theory and theories of translation as ‘production’ (as opposed to ‘reproduction’), the project seeks to recover L.A.’s experience differently. Work in progress from Discovering L.A. has been published in CARE(LESS), (2021) and the journal of the annual Egon Schiele-Symposium at the Leopold Museum (2020).
With Dr Alice Butler, Sick Women: correspondences and performances (2020-ongoing)
A collaborative letter writing project that develops a multi-form and multi-disciplinary approach to its embodied, critical, and theoretical investigation of sickness, gender, and cross-historical correspondence and care. Across presentations, performances, readings, experiments, exhibition essay interventions, and a peer-reviewed academic article (“Sick Women Correspondents”, 2022/2023), it explores the potential of experimental feminist methodologies to ‘care for’ the ‘sick women’ figures (artists, writers, portrait sitters) of a global art history and visual culture.
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
(2021) The Body Electric: Erwin Osen and Egon Schiele, Leopold Museum Vienna
(2015) The Nakeds, De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea
(2014) The Nakeds, Drawing Room, London
(2014) Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900, National Gallery, London
(2010) Madness & Modernity: Kunst und Wahn in Wien um 1900, Wien Museum, Vienna
(2009) Madness & Modernity: Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna 1900, Wellcome Collection, London
Blackshaw, G. and Butler, A. (2023). Sick Women Correspondents: Practices of Care in Cross-historical Love Letter Writing. MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture, forthcoming [peer reviewed].
Blackshaw, G. (2022). The Sick Train. MAP Magazine. https://mapmagazine.co.uk/the-sick-train
Baluch, S., Blackshaw, G., Fraser, M., Heidorn, N., and Hermon, R. (2022). I care by… London: Research Communiqués, RCA School of Arts & Humanities.
Blackshaw, G and Kivland, S. (2021). CARE(LESS): A Supplement to On Care. London: Ma Bibliothèque. https://mabibliotheque.cargo.site/CARE-LESS-A-SUPPLEMENT-TO-ON-CARE-2021
Blackshaw, G. and Kaasa, A. (2022). Correspondence as Care for Erwin Osen’s ‘Lustknabe’. In: Egon Schiele, Mileus und Perspektiven, 4. Egon Schiele Symposium im Leopold Museum, pp. 122-134.
Blackshaw, G. (2021). On Constellations or Seeing Stars. Constellations by Esther Teichmann and Christopher Stewart. https://constellations.world/essay/on-constellations-or-seeing-stars
Blackshaw, G. (2020). Egon Schiele’s Clinical Modernism. In: Egon Schiele, Dialog und Inszenierung, 3. Egon Schiele Symposium im Leopold Museum, pp. 24-39.
Blackshaw, G. (2020). ‘In time the likeness will become apparent’: Rebecca Fortnum’s Feminist Copies. In: R. Fortnum and A. Hunt, eds., Rebecca Fortnum: 'A Mind Weighted with Unpublished Matter'. London: Slimvolume, pp. 4-21.
Blackshaw, G. (2020). Everything Painted Blue: A Letter to Bessie Bruce (1886-1921). Prova, Vol. 5, pp. 198-199.
Blackshaw, G. (2020). Rediscovered Drawings by Erwin Dominik Osen, The Burlington Magazine, Issue 162, March, pp. 224-227.
Blackshaw, G. (2018). Mother Figure: Gemma Blackshaw on Chantal Joffe, Elephant.
Blackshaw, G. (2018). “Crazier than I am, or crazier than I look?” Self-Portraits by Egon Schiele, Tate Etc. Issue 43, 9 May, pp. 2-9.
Blackshaw, G. (2017). Egon Schiele’s Passion: Spirituality and Sexuality, 1912-15 in T. Natter, ed., Egon Schiele: The Complete Paintings. Munich: Taschen, pp. 196-297.
Blackshaw, G. (2016). Confessional Painting: Recent Work by Chantal Joffe in Chantal Joffe. London: Victoria Miro.
Blackshaw, G. (2014). Dead Men and their Naked Truths in M. Doyle and K. Macfarlane, eds., The Nakeds. Manchester: Cornerhouse, pp. 12-29.
Blackshaw, G. (2014). Good Timing, Drawing Room Online Resources. Available at: https://drawingroom.org.uk/resources/good-timing-by-gemma-blackshaw
Blackshaw, G. (2014). The Modernist Offence: Schiele and the Naked Female Body in B. Wright and P. Vergo, eds., Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude. London: Paul Holberton Publishing in association with The Courtauld Gallery, pp. 30-49.
Blackshaw, G. (2013). Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900. London: National Gallery Company in association with Yale University Press.
Blackshaw, G. and Wieber, S. (2012). Journeys into Madness: Mapping Mental Illness in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. New York: Berghahn.
Blackshaw, G. and Topp, L. (2009). Madness & Modernity: Modernism and Mental Illness in Vienna 1900. London: Lund Humphries.
Selected Conference Papers & Invited Papers:
(2019) Egon Schiele’s Clinical Modernism, Egon Schiele Annual Research Symposium, Leopold Museum, Vienna.
(2019) Sick-Woman Bessie Bruce, Keynote Address, Sick Girls in European Visual Art, Literature, Medical Science and Popular Culture in the 19th Century, Aarhus University
(2019) Egon Schiele’s Clinical Modernism, ‘Artistry in the Spaces of Medicine’ panel, Association of Art Historians, Annual Conference, University of Sussex
- (2020-present) Academic Associate, Freud Museum
- (2018–2020) Honorary Professor of Art History, University of Plymouth
- (2014–2018) External Examiner, MA Art History and Theory; MA Gallery Studies and Critical Curating; MA Curating Contemporary Art, University of Essex
- (2009–2013) External Examiner, MA Art History, Birkbeck, University of London
- (2020) Guest Curator, Leopold Museum, Vienna
- (2014) Guest Curator, Drawing Room, London
- (2014) Guest Curator, National Gallery, London
- (2010) Guest Curator, Wien Museum, Vienna
- (2009) Guest Curator, Wellcome Collection, London
- (2019) Member of the Yale University Press Focus Group to consider the current priorities in art history publishing
Research Group Memberships:
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada, 2017–2021
Research Project Collaborator (International): Edvard Munch, Modernism, and Medicine
- Arts and Humanities Research Council, United Kingdom, 2004–2008
Research Project Collaborator (National): Madness and Modernity: Art, Architecture and Mental Illness in Vienna and the Habsburg Empire 1890-1914
- Art History
- H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online)
- Journal of the History of Collections
- Nineteenth-Century Contexts
- Modern Jewish Studies
- Oxford Art Journal
- Wellcome Trust
- Carnegie Trust
- The Art Fund
- Austrian Cultural Forum
- Courtauld Institute of Art
- Drawing Room
- Freud Museum
- JW3, Centre for Jewish Cultural Life
- Neue Galerie, Museum for Austrian and German Art, New York
- Royal Academy Schools
- Zabludowicz Collection
Academic Event Management:
- (2006) Session Chair, Modernism and Medicine, College Art Association, Washington DC
- (2007) Conference Organiser, Journeys into Madness: Representing Mental Illness in the Arts and Sciences, 1850-1930, Wellcome Collection, London
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- Member of the Association of Art Historians
- Member of the College Art Association