Dr Kate Nichols

Photograph of Dr Kate Nichols

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am an art historian of Britain and the British Empire between c.1815-1920.


  • BA Classical Studies (Bristol)
  • MSt Greek/Roman History (Oxford)
  • PhD Classical Reception Studies (Birkbeck College, London)


I came to Birmingham from Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH, Cambridge), where I was a postdoctoral research fellow on the European Research Council Funded project 'The Bible and Antiquity in Nineteenth-­Century Culture'. I studied for my PhD in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College London (2009). Since then, I have been a Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Bristol's Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition; Teaching Fellow in the History of Art at the University of York; Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and Teaching Fellow in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol.


LI/Year 2

  • Victorian Art and the British Empire
  • Art and the Industrial Revolution

LH/Year 3/MA

  • Pre-Raphaelites: Contexts, Approaches, Reputations

I also contribute a session on Queering Art, Queering the Museum to the Widening Horizons Module ‘Gender and Sexual Diversity: international and interdisciplinary approaches to LGBTQ+ identities’, convened by the School of Social Policy.

Postgraduate supervision

I would welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students hoping to undertake research relating to my research and teaching interests in British art (especially in the Victorian period); classical reception studies; the history and theory of museums; art and animals; art and imperialism; art and industry.

Current Research Students
• Clare Matthews, Classical Culture in Nineteenth-Century Industrial Cities, AHRC M3C funded, 2017- (co-supervised with Dr Mark Bradley, Classics, Nottingham University)
• Katy Owen, Making an Exhibition of Herself. Professional Female Artists and Birmingham’s Art Culture from 1860 to 1920, College of Arts and Law Doctoral Scholarship, 2018- (co-supervised with Dr Zoë Thomas, History).
• Zoe Fox, The Political Power of Urban Transformation: A Comparative Historical Analysis of the Augustan and Fascist Building Programs in the Heart of Rome’s Centro Storico, 2020- (co-supervised with Professor Diana Spencer, Classics/LANS, and Dr Lloyd Jenkins, Geography/LANS)

Previous Research Students
• Katherine Reeve, Making a Modern Miranda: How Shakespeare’s Miranda became a figure of Victorian modernity, with reference to John Bell’s Parian statuette, Miranda (1850), MRes, 2016-18 (co-supervised with Dr Rebecca N. Mitchell, English, University of Birmingham)
• Rebecca Savage, The Great Western Rail Posters of 1930-39, College of Arts and Law funded, 2017-18 (co-supervised with Dr Claire Jones)

Find out more - our PhD History of Art  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Four main concerns animate my research. First, viewer interactions with ancient and modern sculpture and painting in the new Victorian contexts of art museums, International Exhibitions, and emergent consumer and sporting cultures in Britain and Australia. Second, the depiction and formation of race, class, gender and sexuality in Victorian painting c.1865-1912. Third, the relationship between art, labour and new technologies in the long nineteenth century. More recently, I have become interested in the ways in which art works establish and blur boundaries between humans and other animals; I’ve co-curated (with Dr Sam Shaw) related exhibitions at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

I am currently working on a book project provisionally titled 'A Global History of Victorian Art'. This explores the mobility of both Victorian paintings and the art materials, models (human and animal) and objects essential to their fabrication, in the context of British imperialism. In 2017 I was awarded a Universitas 21 fellowship at the University of Melbourne to undertake provisional archival research for this project, and I’m busy writing it up at the moment.

My first book, Greece and Rome at the Crystal Palace: Classical Sculpture and Modern Britain, 1854-1936, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. It examines the social, political, and aesthetic role of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture in modern Britain, the first in-depth assessment of how classical art figured in debates over design reform, taste, beauty and morality, class and gender, and race and imperialism.

Other activities

In 2020/21 I am Study Abroad Officer and Exams Officer for the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies.

I was founding editor (2016-19) of Midlands Art Papers, a collaborative online journal, working between the University of Birmingham and 11 partner institutions to research and explore the world class works of art and design in public collections across the Midlands.


Recent conference organisation

Other activities

  • I am a member of 19cc – the Nineteenth-Century Centre an interdisciplinary network at the University of Birmingham. I am also on the Executive Committee for BAVS, the British Association for Victorian Studies.
  • In 2016 I initiated the Rainbow Trail, and supported a group of student volunteers from across the University to select objects exploring the lives and communities of LGBTQIA+ people from the University of Birmingham’s Research and Cultural Collections.
  • I am also a mentor for the careers service's LGBT student mentoring scheme.


Recent publications


Nichols, K, Allen, J & Atkins, G 2020, 'Introduction. Reframing Stained Glass in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Culture, Aesthetics, Contexts', 19: interdisciplinary studies in the long nineteenth century, no. 30. https://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.3013

Nichols, K 2018, 'How should we look at Victorian nudes? John Collier's Godiva (1898)', Midlands Art Papers, vol. 2. <https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/historyofart/research/projects/map/issue2/map2box2-johncollier-godiva.aspx>

Nichols, E 2018, 'Sophie Anderson, a cosmopolitan Victorian Artist in the Midlands', Midlands Art Papers, no. 1. <https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/historyofart/research/projects/map/includes/issue1/8-in-depth-sophie-anderson.aspx>

Nichols, K 2016, 'Arthur Hacker’s Syrinx (1892): paint, classics and the culture of rape', Feminist Theory, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 107-126. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464700115620863

Nichols, E 2016, 'Diana or Christ? Seeing and feeling doubt in late Victorian visual culture', 19: interdisciplinary studies in the long nineteenth century, vol. 23. https://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.772

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Nichols, E 2021, Remaking ancient Athens in 1850s London: Owen Jones, Gottfried Semper, and the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. in M Gnehm & S Hildebrand (eds), Architectural History and Globalized Knowledge: Gottfried Semper in London. gta-Verlag, Zurich, pp. 143-158. https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-b-000501065

Nichols, E 2017, ‘[M]anly beauty and muscular strength’: Sculpture, sport and the nation at the Crystal Palace, 1854-1918. in K Nichols & S Turner (eds), After 1851: the material and visual cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 97-121. https://doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719096495.003.0005

Nichols, E & Turner, S 2017, “What is to become of the Crystal Palace?”: the Crystal Palace after 1851. in K Nichols & S Turner (eds), After 1851: The Material and Visual Cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 1-23. <https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719096495/>

Nichols, E & Wade, R 2016, Art versus Industry? An Introduction. in K Nichols, R Wade & G Williams (eds), Art versus Industry?: New perspectives on visual and industrial cultures in nineteenth-century Britain. Manchester University Press, pp. 1-18. <https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719096464/>

Book/Film/Article review

Nichols, E 2017, 'Facing Britain’s Imperial Past? Artist and Empire at Tate Britain', Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 214-221. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150316000516


Nichols, E 2018, 'Animals in the Studio House', British Art Studies, vol. Summer 2018, no. 9. https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-09/conversation/016

Other contribution

Nichols, E 2018, 1861 Visualising Race. Paul Mellon Center. <https://chronicle250.com/1861>

Nichols, E 2018, 1867 The Pains of a Mass Audience. Paul Mellon Center. <https://chronicle250.com/1867>

Nichols, E 2018, 1881 God, Kittens, and Empire. Paul Mellon Center. <https://chronicle250.com/1881>

Nichols, K 2018, Victorian women artists in public collections: the case of Sophie Anderson.. <https://artuk.org/discover/stories/victorian-women-artists-in-public-collections-the-case-of-sophie-anderson>

View all publications in research portal