Dr Julia Secklehner BA, MA, MPhil, PhD

Dr Julia Secklehner

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Research Fellow

Contact details

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

I specialise in Central European modernism, particularly Austrian, Czech, Hungarian, and Slovak art in the years between the two World Wars. My research focuses on the relationship between the avant-garde and ‘vernacular’ modernisms in this region.


  • PhD in Art History, The Courtauld Institute of Art

  • MPhil in Czech, The University of Glasgow

  • MA (Hons) in Art History and Czech, The University of Glasgow

  • BA (Hons) in English Literature, The Open University


Before joining the University of Birmingham in 2018, I was at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where I earned my PhD. At the Courtauld, I taught on the ‘Frameworks for Interpretations’ methodology course and worked as a research assistant. In 2016, I co-organised the AHRC-funded Comics Crossroads events series and exhibition together with researchers from the University of Kent, and I was part of the editorial team of immediations from 2016 to 2017.


I work on the ERC-funded project ‘Continuity or Rupture? Art and Architecture of Central Europe: 1918-1938’ (CRAACE) with Professor Matthew Rampley, Dr Marta Filipová and Dr Nóra Veszprémi. Within this project, my research focuses on the dialectic between avant-garde movements and ‘nostalgic’ or ‘folk’ modernism in Central Europe. I examine the tension between the avant-garde and ‘völkisch’ art, and its role in defining national, metropolitan and regional identities, and interwar sexual politics. My research highlights the contradictory impulses governing the artistic landscape, in which avant-garde renewal existed alongside cultural and artistic ideas that reached back to the aesthetic and ideological impulses of the Habsburg era.

My interests also include interwar Central European women photographers and intersections of art and activism in the interwar years. In this context, I explore how photographers used their position as politically active, leftist, Jewish women to forge a ‘humanist’ photography in the illustrated press, merging the visual language of the Bauhaus and New Objectivity with worker and documentary photography.

My PhD research, which was funded by an AHRC doctoral scholarship and titled ‘Belligerent Drawing? The Vienna and Prague Satirical Press in Political Crossfire 1918-1938’, has initialised a wide-ranging survey of the interwar satirical press. Joining the histories of individual magazines, their politics, and artistic developments, the project has demonstrated that interwar satirical magazines in Prague and Vienna encompassed considerably more variety and engagement with their social, political and artistic environment than previous studies have shown. 


Other activities

Acting Editor, Central and Eastern European London Review.


  • ‘Vereinte Welten: Das Bauhaus und die soziale Fotografie im Werk jüdischer Fotografinnen der Zwischenkriegszeit‘, Workshop ‘Beyond Categorisation. Neue Zugänge zur Geschichte der Jüdinnen und Juden.‘, Ludwig Boltzmann Institut, Vienna, 4 September 2018.
  • ‘Modernist photographs, communist action: Irena Blühová, the Bauhaus legacy and the AIZ’, Workshop ‘Retracing gender: Women in Central and Eastern European Avant-Garde’, Polish Cultural Institute, Warsaw, 18-20 January 2018.
  • ‘Netzwerk Satire: John Heartfield, Adolf Hoffmeister und die Karikaturenausstellung in Prag, 1934‘, Symposium ‘Akteure und Institutionen visueller Medien im [deutsch-]tschechischen Kontext‘, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 23-25 November 2017.
  • ‘Hitler vs. Holková? National and international anti-Fascism in Prague caricature, 1934’, Third Year PhD Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 8-9 June 2017.
  • ‘Radical Pop Culture? Trn and the young Czechoslovak Left of the 1920s’, College Art Association Conference, New York, 15-18 February 2017.
  • ‘Viragoes and Feeble Men? Gender stereotypes and the nation in the Austrian satirical press, 1920-1925’, 48th Annual Convention of the ASEEES, Washington D.C., 17-20 November 2016.
  • ‘Anti-Semitism and the Habsburg Legacy: Austrian Caricature in Crisis’, University of Glasgow Postgraduate Conference “Difference: Fear, Fascination, Foreignness”, Glasgow, 24-25 May 2016.
  • ‘Fashioning a paper avant-garde: Trn and the politics of modern life’, Modern and Contemporary Second Year PhD Symposium, the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 20 May 2016.
  • ‘CENTRAL&CONTEMPORARY – Hungarian Art without Boundaries’, Discussion Panel, Institute for Contemporary Art, London, 14 May 2016.
  • ‘Feeble Austrians, modern Czechs? Notions of “the self” and “the other” in Austrian and Czech satirical magazines, 1918-1925’, CHASE Encounters Conference, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 20 November 2015, URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up2a6N6OpRY
  • ‘Frontiers of Identity: Austrian and Czechoslovak Caricature between Tradition and Modernity 1918/1919’, Int. Forum for Doctoral Candidates in East European Art History, Humboldt Universität, Berlin, 30 April 2015.
  • ‘Capturing the Ordinary: Irena Blühová and Photographic Modernism in Slovakia 1925-1936’, The Third Forum of Critical Studies: Asking Big Questions Again, Florence, 6-7 February 2015.


Book Chapters

  • ‘”A School for Becoming Human”: The Socialist Humanism of Irena Blühová’s Bauhaus Photographs’, in Bauhaus Bodies, edited by Elizabeth Otto und Patrick Rössler. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.
  • ‘Irena Blühová’ and ‘Judit Kárász’, in Elizabeth Otto and Patrick Rössler, Global Bauhaus Women. London: Palazzo Publishing, 2019.
  • ‘Netzwerk Satire: Adolf Hoffmeister und John Heartfield als Akteure visueller Medien im Zuge des Skandals um die Internationale Karikaturenausstellung in Prag, 1934‘, in Akteure und Institutionen visueller Medien im [deutsch-] tschechischen Kontext (Conference Proceedings). Bern: Peter Lang, 2019.


  • ‘Bolshevik Jews, Aryan Vienna? Popular Antisemitism in Der Kikeriki, 1918-1933’, The Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, August 2018.
  •  ‘Gender(ed) Revolution? Masculinities and Femininities in Irena Blühová’s work’, immediations, the Courtauld Institute of Art Journal of Postgraduate Research, 3:4 (2015).


  • Milena Bartlová, Unsere "nationale" Kunst. Studien zur Geschichte der Kunstgeschichte, Stuttgart: Thorbecke 2016, in: sehepunkte 18 (2018), Nr. 6, URL: http://www.sehepunkte.de /2018/06/31855.html
  • ‘Drawing on the Sidelines. A conversation with William Kentridge’, part of the exhibition „Kovásznai – A Cold War Artist. Animation. Painting. Freedom”, Somerset House, London, 3.-5. March 2016, URL: http://kovasznai.org/conference_wp.php