Professor Richard Woodfield

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Contact details

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

I am the Editor of the Journal of Art Historiography, which is an Open Access ejournal. Besides being deeply interested in the variety of practices associated with writing the history of art, I am specifically interested in the work and intellectual background of E.H. Gombrich and also eighteenth century English aesthetics and art theory.


In 1970 I signed up to work for a PhD with Ernst Gombrich at the Warburg Institute on eighteenth century art theory. My co-supervisor was Richard Wollheim at University College. As the two did not see eye to eye, I gave up and turned to publishing articles instead. In 1986 I rejoined Gombrich to work on the production of his Reflections on the History of Art and again in 1994 to work on The Essential Gombrich. I visited him fairly regularly from 1988 to 2000 for conversations about his work. In 2009 I founded the Journal of Art Historiography.

Prior to my retirement in 2005 I was School Research Professor for the Nottingham Trent School of Art and Design, where I am now Emeritus Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory. In 2007 I was appointed Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Art History in the University of Glasgow. In 2011 I joined the University of Birmingham at the invitation of Professor Rampley.


I am currently working on a monograph provisionally titled 'Gombrich amongst the Anglophones', which is intended to set his work in its Viennese context. I am particularly interested in the development of sematology, first proposed by Heinrich Gomperz and then developed into a robust form of semiotics by Karl Bühler. In relation to that I am preoccupied with the work of the Vienna School of Art History, particularly with a series of problems formulated by Julius von Schlosser.

I have had a long-standing interest in eighteenth century English aesthetics and art theory and my most recent publication in that area was on the first English translation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della Pittura. My current interest focuses on the decline of magic and demonolatry (as discussed in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan) and connects to my interest in Gomperz and in Gombrich’s work with Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz on Legend, Myth and Magic in the Image of the Artist.

Other activities

I am responsible for the Gombrich Archive at


I recently published ‘The 1721 English Treatise of Painting: a Masonic moment in the Culture of Newtonianism’, in Claire Farago (ed.), Re-reading Leonardo: The Treatise on Painting across Europe from 1550 to 1900 (Burlington VT and Aldershot: Ashgate) 475-91.

I have edited Gombrich on Art and Psychology (1986), Gombrich's Reflections on the History of Art (1987), The Essential Gombrich (1996), Ernst Gombrich, Dal mio tempo: Città, maestri, incontri (1999) and constructed the Gombrich Archive I have also published books on Riegl and Warburg and many articles and reviews. My publications are listed at and a selection of my papers is available on my site at