Professor Gemma Blackshaw

Professor Gemma Blackshaw


School of Humanities and Performing Arts (Faculty of Arts & Humanities)


Professor of Art History

Research Coordinator for Art History

Personal Tutor for Joint Honours Fine Art & Art History


PhD, University of Birmingham
PGCE, Learning & Teaching in Higher Education, University of Plymouth

Professional membership

AAH (Association of Art Historians)

CAA (College Art Association)

Teaching interests

Gemma Blackshaw's teaching interests lie in the modern period (from the 19th century to the present) in Europe. She offers modules on modernism in the Austrian, German and French contexts, which are frequently extended into field-trip modules to cities such as Vienna, Munich and Paris. Drawing on her curatorial expertise, she also offers modules on gallery and museum studies.

Staff serving as external examiners

External Examiner for the MA in Art History & Theory and MA in Curatorial Studies, University of Essex (2014-2017).

External Examiner for the MA in History of Art at Birkbeck College, University of London (2009-12).

Research interests

  • Austrian art from the 19th and early 20th centuries
  • The intersection of modernism with medicine
  • The exhibition history of modern Viennese art
  • Modern portraiture
  • Historiography
Gemma Blackshaw specialises in Austrian art from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on that produced in Vienna around 1900. Her specific interests lie in: the nexus between Viennese modernism and the modern subject's experience of illness and disease; the exhibition and reception history of modern Viennese art; modernist networks, their role in the development of modern portraiture, and the promotion of artists' careers. She has worked as a guest curator on a number of exhibitions in the UK and in Austria including Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 at the National Gallery (2013) and Madness & Modernity: Mental Illness and the Visual Arts at the Wellcome Collection (2009) and Wien Museum (2010).  Her research has been supported by the AHRC, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust. Current projects include a monograph, entitled Clinical Modernism, which considers the connections between art, medicine and experience in Vienna in the early 20th century, and contributions to an international collaborative research project, Edvard Munch, Modernism, and Medicine. Gemma Blackshaw is interested in supervising students at ResM and PhD level who would like to pursue projects on Viennese modernism, or in other areas of her research interests.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

3 PhD completions, 1 as DoS; 6 MRes completions.

Grants & contracts

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2010) for book project Exhibiting Portraiture in Vienna 1900.

British Academy Award (2007) to support the conference ‘Journeys into Madness: Representing Mental Illness in the Arts and Sciences, 1850-1930’.

Wellcome Trust Award (2007) to support the conference ‘Journeys into Madness: Representing Mental Illness in the Arts and Sciences, 1850-1930’.

AHRC Major Research Project Grant (2003) for ‘Madness and Modernity: Art, Architecture and Mental Illness in Vienna and the Habsburg Empire 1890-1914’.


Creative practice & artistic projects


The Nakeds, Drawing Room, London (Sept - Nov 2014), De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea (Dec - February 2015). Co-curated with artist David Austen.

Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900,  National Gallery, London (Oct - Jan 2014).

Madness & Modernity: Kunst und Wahn in Wien um 1900,  Wien Museum, Vienna (Jan - April 2010). Co-curated with Sabine Wieber (University of Glasgow).

Madness & Modernity: Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna 1900 , Wellcome Collection, London (April - June 2009). Co-curated with Leslie Topp (Birkbeck, University of London).


Altenberg: The Little Pocket Mirror . Documentary film collaboration with artist-filmmaker David Bickerstaff, produced by Atomictv and Plymouth University (2011).

Research groups

  • Art History
  • Centre for Humanities, Music and Performing Arts Research (HuMPA)


Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900, edited book (London: National Gallery Company in association with Yale University Press, 2013).

Co-Edited Books:

Journeys into Madness: Mapping Mental Illness in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, co-edited book with Sabine Wieber (New York: Berghahn, 2012).

Madness and Modernity: Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna 1900, co-edited book with Leslie Topp (London: Lund Humphries, 2009). This is also available in German as Madness and Modernity: Kunst und Wahn in Wien um 1900 (Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 2010).

Chapters in Books:

'Egon Schiele's Passion: Spirituality and Sexuality, 1912-15' in Tobias Natter (ed), Egon Schiele: The Complete Paintings (Munich: Taschen, 2017), 196-297.

'Dead Men and their Naked Truths' in Mary Doyle and Kate Macfarlane (eds), The Nakeds, (Manchester: Cornerhouse, 2014), 12-29.

'The Modernist Offence: Schiele and the Naked Female Body' in Barnaby Wright and Peter Vergo (eds), Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude (London: Paul Holberton Publishing in association with The Courtauld Gallery, 2014), 30-49.

'On Stage: The New Viennese' in Facing the Modern, 13-33.

'Past Times and Present Anxieties at the Galerie Miethke' in Facing the Modern, 35-61.

'The Appeal of the Artist: Self Portraits by Klimt, Schiele and Schoenberg' in Facing the Modern, 111-131.

'Introduction' (with Sabine Wieber) in Journeys into Madness, 1-9.

'Peter Altenberg: Authoring Madness in Vienna c. 1900' in Journeys into Madness, 109-129.

'Scrutinised Bodies and Lunatic Utopias: Mental Illness, Psychiatry and the Visual Arts in Vienna, 1898-1914' (with Leslie Topp) in Madness and Modernity, 14-37.

'Mad Modernists: Imaging Mental Illness in Viennese Portraits' in Madness and Modernity, 46-65.

'Gustav Jagerspacher: Portrait of Peter Altenberg' in Madness and Modernity, 66-75.


'Rediscovering Anton Romako' in 'From Ausgleich to Jahrhundertwende: Literature and Culture 1867-1890', Austrian Studies, 16, 2008, 105-122.

'The Pathological Body: Modernist Strategising in Egon Schiele's Self-Portraiture', Oxford Art Journal, 30:3, 2007, 377-401. 

'The Jewish Christ: Problems of Self-Presentation and Socio-Cultural Assimilation in Richard Gerstl's Self-Portraiture', Oxford Art Journal, 29:1, 2006, 25-51.

'Breaking the Mould?' Review of Claude Cernuschi, Re/Casting Kokoschka: Ethics and Aesthetics, Epistemology and Politics in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, Art History, 27:2, 2004, 335-34.

'The Eye of God?' Review of Oskar Kokoschka: Early Portraits from Vienna and Berlin 1909-1914, Art History, 26:1, 2003, 127-129.

Reports & invited lectures

'The Colour of Contagion: Oskar Kokoschka's Portraits of Tubercular Patients', Royal Academy Schools, London (16 January 2017).

'The Modernist Offence: Schiele and the Naked Female Body', Freud Museum London (11 Nov 2014). 

'Facing the Modern: The Curator's Perspective', post-graduate seminar paper, Courtauld Institute of Art (6 March 2014).

'Museums I have known: reflections on being a guest curator', post-graduate seminar paper with Leslie Topp, Birkbeck, University of London (30 January 2014).

'Curating Facing the Modern at the National Gallery London', research paper, University of Bristol (13 Nov 2013). 

'Facing the Modern: An Introduction', The Art Fund, Yorkshire Museum (14 Nov 2013).

'Facing the Modern: The Making of an Exhibition', Austrian Cultural Forum (5 Nov 2013).

'Facing the Modern: The Curator's Perspective', JW3: Jewish Community Centre for London (14 Oct 2013).

'Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900', research paper, University of Sussex (20 Feb 2013).

'Curating Facing the Modern at the National Gallery London', research paper, University of Glasgow (28 Nov 2012).

'Madness & Modernity: Alfred Kubin', Nottingham Contemporary (20 Sept 2012).

'Portraiture in Vienna c. 1900', research paper, University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University and the Ashmolean Museum (24 Feb 2011).

'Mapping Mental Illness in Vienna 1900: Journeys of an Exhibition', research paper, University of Nottingham, (17 March 2010).

Participant in the round-table discussion for the AAH event 'Don't Ask For the Mona Lisa: Exhibition Collaborations Between Academics and Museums & Art Galleries', University of Leeds (18 March 2010).

'Vienna's Van Gogh? Oskar Kokoschka meets Peter Altenberg at the Hagenbund, 1911', CAA, Los Angeles (25-28 Feb 2009).

'Homo-Social Bonding: Egon Schiele and his Early Collectors', Europa! Europa! conference, Ghent University (29-31 May 2008).

'The Rediscovery of Anton Romako: Pre-Modernist Portraiture', 'From the Ausgleich to the Jahrhundertwende: Vienna 1867-1890, Pre-Modernism and Change', St. Hilda's College Oxford (2-4 April 2008).

Other academic activities