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Professor Rebecca Fortnum


  • Professor Rebecca Fortnum
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities


    Senior Tutor, Research

  • School Lead, Postgraduate Research

    • Arts & Humanities Research
  • Artist and academic Professor Rebecca Fortnum is Senior Tutor for Research in the School of Arts & Humanitites at the Royal College of Art. Fortnum oversees all aspects of staff research in the School of Fine Art, as well as strategic planning, grant submission and the supervision of Fine Art MRes, MPhil and PhD students. 

  • Biography

  • Rebecca Fortnum read English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford before gaining an MFA from Newcastle University and taking up a fellowship at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, USA. In 2009 Fortnum became Reader of Fine Art at University of the Arts London and in 2013 she was appointed Professor of Fine Art at Middlesex University, London. She has also been a Visiting Fellow in Painting at Plymouth University and at Winchester School of Art; a visiting artist at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; a Senior Lecturer at Norwich School of Art and Wimbledon School of Art and an Associate Lecturer at Bath Spa University and Central St Martins School of Art, London. In 2018–2019 Fortnum is Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford University.

    Fortnum's specialist interest in women artists resulted in the 2007 publication, Contemporary British Women Artists: in their own words. Her most recent publication is On Not Knowing: how artists think published by Black Dog, which she co-edited with Lizzie Fisher in 2013.

    Fortnum was instrumental in founding the London artist-run spaces Cubitt and Gasworks. She also established Paint Club, an informal painting research network in 2008, and is Founding Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Painting published by Intellect.

    Recent exhibitions include The Imagination of Children and a solo exhibition, Absurd Impositions, both at the V & A’s Museum of Childhood (2011). Fortnum's work was included in group exhibition Behind The Eyes: Making Pictures at Gallery North, Northumbria University Gallery, Newcastle (2013) and solo exhibition, Self Contained, at the Freud Museum in 2013 with an accompanying book published by RGAP that included essays by Louisa Minkin, Graham Music and Maria Walsh.

    In 2014 she co-curated, Just what is it that makes today’s art schools so different, so appealing symposium at the ICA London and co-edited a special edition of the Journal of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education on the challenges of Fine Art pedagogy.

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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Selected Publications

    Fortnum, R  (2017) 'Baggage reclaim: Some thoughts on feminism and painting'Journal of Contemporary Painting, Volume 3 Issue 1-2 

    Fisher, E. and Fortnum, R (eds) (2013) On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, London: Black Dog Publishing

    Morrens, P., Chorpening, K., Nys, A. and Fortnum, R. (2012) Drawing - in and outside - writing. RGAP (Research Group for Artists Publications) in collaboration with Sint-Lucas Visual Arts Ghent

    Fortnum, R (2006) Contemporary British Women Artists: In Their Own Words, London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd  

    Selected Conferences and Symposia 

    (2009) On not knowing: how artists think. Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK

    Selected Exhibitions


    Adams, L., Fortnum, R., Harland, B., Hulson, M., Love, J. (2013) Behind the eyes; making pictures, Gallery North, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

    Self Contained, Freud Museum, London, UK


    The imagination of children, Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, London, UK

    Absurd impositions, Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, London, UK

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  • Awards and Grants

  • Fortnum  has been awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship in the Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford University for 2018–2019.

    Fortnum has received awards from organisations including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, British Council, Arts Council of England, British School in Rome, AHRC, the Art House’s Space for 10 award for mid-career artists, and the METHOD Cultural Leadership Programme. 

Selected work


Current and recent research

Baggage reclaim: Some thoughts on feminism and painting 

This article calls for a reappraisal of the feminist discussion around painting in relation to contemporary practices by women, suggesting that all painting by women has something to offer the feminist critical thought. Playfully using Judy Chicago’s reflections and strategies as a frame, the article explores how contemporary painters have engaged with the histories and communities of women to form new models of scholarship and practice. It examines the projects of painters Melissa Gordon, Nadia Hebson and the Obscure Secure group (Jacqueline Utley, Hayley Field and Claudia Böse) whose artwork forms a ‘live’ response to the legacy of little known and undervalued women artists. The article concludes by examining the notion of the painterly gesture and develops a feminist context in which to examine the materiality and processes of painting, with reference to the perspectives of Dana Schutz and Jutta Koether among others. It suggests Helen Molesworth’s historically defined quality of ambivalence can be seen resurfacing as a critical position within contemporary painting by women.,id=23822/

Research students