Research Stream


Richard Read

Emeritus Professor Richard Read is a full term Associate Investigator, and a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia.  Having been Winthrop Professor in Art History in the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Art, he has published in major journals on the relationship between literature and the visual arts, nineteenth and twentieth-century European and Australian art history, contemporary film, popular culture and complex images in global contexts.

His first degree was in English Literature at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, followed by an MA in Literature and Art History and a PhD on English Art Criticism at the University of Reading under the supervision of the Warburg art historian D. J. Gordon. He taught English literature at the University of Melbourne and art history at the University of Queensland. At the University of Western Australia he has achieved world leadership in scholarship on the twentieth-century art critic of Renaissance art, Adrian Stokes and on the history of English art theory and criticism in several high impact journals. His Art and Its Discontents: the Early Life of Adrian Stokes (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002: PA: Penn. State U. Press, 2003) was widely reviewed and was joint winner of a national book prize. His current research includes book projects on: ‘The Trope of Contrast in the Art and Literature of the British Grand Tour to Italy’, and ‘Disencumbrance and Desuetude: the Forgetting of the Past in Contemporary Art’ funded by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of the Emotions. His research is informed by a broad range of undergraduate art history units on seventeenth-century art and architecture, Cubism and its diasporas, the history of art theory and the art and literature of the British Grand Tour to Italy. In 2013 he received an inter-Faculty prize for excellence in research supervision for which he was nominated again this year.

Professor Read’s work on complex images won an Australian Research Council grant in 2004 and was the subject of invited lecture at the universities of Warwick, Plymouth, Melbourne, Aberystwyth and Cambridge; also at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of America at Washington DC, the Courtauld Institute of Art and Tate Britain. He was Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship at the University of Bristol (2010), Senior Research Fellow at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA (2011 and 2013) and resident scholar at the University of Maryland, Washington DC (2013).

He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Durham where he will be completing his book project on The Reversed Painting in Western Art. The reversed painting is an easel painting that depicts another painting or paintings seen from behind, most famously in Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656). The topic is concerned with the dynamic emergence of the visible from the unseen and illuminates important shifts in the relationships between viewers and pictorial worlds across different continents and many centuries. He will also be working on the emergence of the visible from the unseen in the influence of theories of visual perception upon nineteenth-century British and American art criticism and travel writing, and in the emergence of sub-textual meaning from these texts and the art criticism of Adrian Stokes. For an anthology on Authors and Authority edited by Victoria Bladen of the University of Queensland and Pippa Salonius of UCLA he is writing on Reversal as a Trope of Creativity and Reversal in Medieval Artifacts, a topic which examines the way in which the associations of the spiritual and bodily natures of Christ either buttress the spiritual authority of artists or portray dissent against cultures of authority in double-sided Medieval artefacts. He is also participating in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia that will bring nineteenth-century American landscape paintings from the Terra Foundation of America together with Australian landscapes of the same era for a module and symposium at The University of Western Australia.



Disencumbrance and Desuetude: the Forgetting of the Past in Contemporary Art

Extra-Intra-Recto-Verso: The Reversed Painting in Western Art

Relevant publications


Art and its Discontents: the Early Life of Adrian Stokes (Ashgate, 2002; Penn. State University Press, 2003)

Edited Collections

Editor, with K. Haltman. Colonization, Wilderness, and Spaces Between: Nineteenth-Century Landscape Painting in Australia and the United States. Terra Foundation for American Art and the School of Design, UWA. Distributed by Chicago Press, 2020.

Recent Journal Articles

‘Intra-Extra-Recto-Verso: Ontological Realms in Reversed Paintings’, Melbourne Art Journal, 11-12 (2009), 120-135, 9 colour illustrations, 1 b. + w. (invited)

‘The Diastolic Rhythm of the Art Gallery: Originals, Copies and Reversed Paintings’, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 10 (2010), 57-77, 8 colour, 3 b. + w. illustrations

‘Vico, Virginia Woolf and Adrian Stokes’s Autobiographies: Fantasy, Providence and Isolation in Post War British Aesthetics’, invited for submission to Art History, 2012), pp. 779-795, 3 coloured illustrations

'The Relational Origins of Inter-media Art in Painting, Interior Design and Picture Framing: Pamela Gaunt’s Errant Abstractions’, craft + design enquiry (2012), pp. 110-133, 9 coloured illustrations

'Circling Each Other: Adrian Stokes and Henry Moore', Tate Papers, forthcoming, 2015

Book Chapters
‘Boosting the Emotional Power of New Liturgy: The Hidden Sides of Things in Giotto’s Crib at Greccio’. In Performing Emotions in Early Europe, edited by P. Maddern, J. McEwan and A. M. Scott, pp. 201–20. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2018.

‘Painting as New Medium: The Reversed Canvas in Colonial Art’, Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration and Convergence, ed. Jaynie Anderson (Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2009), 997-1002 (invited)

‘Anglo-Italian Contrasts in John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice’, in Ruskin in Perspective: Contemporary  Essays, ed. Carmen Casaliggi and Paul March-Russell, new paperback edn (London: Macmillan, 2010), 44-66 (invited)

‘Contrasting Nurseries in John Ruskin’s Stones of Venice’, in Ruskin, Venice and 19th Century Cultural Travel ed. Keith Hanley and Emma Sdegno (Venice: University of Ca’ Foscari, 2010), 7,000 words + 1 illustration (invited)

‘Hazlitt as a Gateway to Nineteenth-Century Ekphrasis: the Quarrel with Reynolds Revisited’, commissioned by Dr Carmen Casaliggi, Romantic Legacies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Literature, Aesthetics, Landscape (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 15-30, 1 b. + w. illustration (invited)

'The Thin End of the Wedge: Self, Soul and Body in Rembrandt's Kenwood Self Portrait' in Conjunctions: Body and Mind from Plato to Descartes, ed. Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers (Springer, 2013), 3 illustrations, 13,450 words (invited)

'Painting and Technology: Samuel F. B.Morse and the Transmission of Intelligence', in Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention, ed. P. J. Brownlee (Chicago: Terra Foundation of American Art, 2014), 9,000 words and 15 illustrations.

Blog Posts

‘Agnes Martin and Time-Piece at Tate Modern’

‘Hypnagogic Art Mummies: Die First, Buy Later’