Dr Kate Nichols

Photograph of Dr Kate Nichols

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Associate Professor in Art History

Contact details

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

I am an art historian of Britain and the British Empire, focussing particularly on the Victorian period.


  • 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.


LC/Year 1

  • Historical Concepts in the History of Art
  • Writing Art’s Histories I
  • A History of Art in 20 Objects B

LI/Year 2

  • Art, Race and the British Empire, 1837-1901: Contexts, Approaches, Legacies
  • Research Techniques in the History of Art

LH/Final Year/MA: Special Subject Modules

  • An UnNatural History: Animals in modern Western Art
  • Pre-Raphaelites: Contexts, Approaches, Reputations


  • Made in Birmingham: Art and Urban Space
  • What is British Art?

I also contribute a session on ‘Legacies’ to the EDACS MA module ‘Empire and the Imagination’, convened by Dr Fariha Shaikh.

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
• 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, Part Time, 2020- (co-supervised with Professor Diana Spencer, Classics/LANS, and Dr Lloyd Jenkins, Geography/LANS)
• Alan Bean, Natural Piety and Sentiment: Landscape, Children and Religion in the paintings of William Collins R.A. (1788-1847), 2020- (co-supervised with Dr Claire Jones and Dr Jessica Fay)
• Annabelle Gillmore, Slavery and Empire on Display at Charlecote Park, M4C-funded CDA with the National Trust, 2020- (as second supervisor; co-supervised with Dr Kate Smith and the National Trust)
• Delaram Motlagh, Victorian Cleopatras: Sexuality, Race and Empire at the Fin de Siecle, M4C funded, 2020 - (co-supervised with Dr Ellie Dobson and Professor Rebecca Mitchell)
• Shawn Bullock, Reframing the Tourist Picturesque: Intersections of photographic technologies and visual cultures in the British Empire, Part Time, 2021-
• Alessia Attanasio, From Vesuvius to the Thames: The fortunes of Baroque Neapolitan art in English collections, Full Time M4C funded, 2022-

Previous Research Students
• 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, 2018-2022 (co-supervised with Dr Zoë Thomas, History).
• Clare Matthews, Classical Culture in Nineteenth-Century Industrial Cities, AHRC M3C funded PhD, 2017-2021 (co-supervised with Dr Mark Bradley, Classics, Nottingham University)
• Rebecca Savage, The Great Western Rail Posters of 1930-39, College of Arts and Law funded, MRes, 2017-18 (co-supervised with Dr Claire Jones)
• 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)

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 2022/23 I am Director of Postgraduate Research for the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies, and Senior Tutor for the School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music. This means I am responsible for overseeing all Personal Tutoring in the School.

With Dr Sabrina Rahman (Exeter), and Victoria Osborne (Birmingham Museums Trust), I am co-convenor of British Art Network Research group ‘Race, Empire and the Pre-Raphaelites: Decolonising Victorian Art and Design through Museum Collections and Practice. This research group brings together museums holding Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts collections with academics working in related fields to consider these objects’ global contexts, particularly in relation to ideologies of Orientalism and Empire. Our funding and events will run from December 2020-December 2023. Find out more, and view recordings of previous events .

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 a mentor for the careers service's LGBT student mentoring scheme.


Recent publications


Nichols, K 2023, 'Indigenous dispossession and settler colonial art galleries: Anguish at the National Gallery of Victoria', Art History, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 102-123. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8365.12697

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>

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Nichols, K 2023, The Bible, Classical Antiquity, and the Invention of Victorian Art at the 1887 Manchester Jubilee Exhibition. in S Goldhill & R Ravenscroft Jackson (eds), Victorian Engagements with the Bible and Antiquity: The Shock of the Old. Cambridge University Press, pp. 83-121. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009306430.004

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


Mills, V & Nichols, K (eds) 2022, Victorian Material Culture. Routledge Historical Resources, vol. IV, 1st edn, Routledge, London. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315400266

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, K 2023, 'Sculpture, faith, and the many worlds of Victorian sculpture: W. F. Woodington, Genesis (1862)', Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 28, no. 1, vcac029, pp. 81-91. https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcac029

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