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 Founder/Editor of the Journal of Art Historiography, which is a peer-reviewed Open Access ejournal, that has been described by the Dictionary of Art Historians as “The major serial organ for the study of art historiography. Essays, primary texts, translations. Seminal.” I am also the Founder/General Editor of Routledge's Studies in Art Historiography. I was led into this area of study by my work with Ernst Gombrich, Britain’s most eminent art historian in the 20th century. I was fascinated by a web of problems that, I discovered, had its origins in Vienna and the Vienna School of Art History. My explorations then broadened out to include collaborators, which in turn led to the creation of the journal and then the book series.


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. It wasn’t long before I realised that Gombrich’s intellectual assumptions were rather different from Wollheim’s, and Wollheim’s rather different from my philosophical mentors. Gombrich would never have thought what Wollheim thought he did, and my mentors would never have thought Gombrich philosophical. I gave up on the PhD and became a regular visitor to the Warburg Institute, published a number of articles in the British Journal of Aesthetics, which at that time was not dominated by philosophers, and edited a series of facsimiles of eighteenth-century English art theoretical texts, published by the Scolar Press.

In 1986, following a review of his book Tributes, which he liked, Gombrich invited me to visit him and its first outcome was the production of his Reflections on the History of Art (1987). We found our conversations congenial, and those became regular monthly events. Phaidon wanted to produce a collection of material illustrating the breadth of his work and, failing their own candidates, Gombrich nominated me to do the job: the result was The Essential Gombrich (1996). They had also asked me to produce a festschrift for his 85th birthday, but found my proposal too demanding for their readers. Instead, I gathered together a team of contributors and produced my own festschrift for him, which resulted in Gombrich on Art and Psychology (1996). This, in turn, led me into studying the work of the famous Viennese Professor of Psychology Karl Bühler, Heinrich Gomperz, Gombrich’s teacher Julius Schlosser, and the controversial Hans Sedlmayr. In 2005 I retired from my post as 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 2008 I convened a conference on Viennese art historiography, which was then published in my newly created Journal of Art Historiography in December 2009, hosted by the University of Glasgow.

In 2010 I was Herald Research Fellow in the Australian Institute of Art History at Melbourne University and in 2011 I joined the University of Birmingham at the invitation of Professor Rampley, transferring the journal to with the assistance of Birmingham’s IT staff. The 4th issue of the journal, published in 2011, was devoted to Australian art historiography.


I concluded my research on Gombrich with a paper “Ernst Gombrich: Iconology and the ‘linguistics of the image’”, presented at the colloquium ‘I saperi di Ernst Gombrich: Teoria del visibile e analisi dell’arte’, Venice, March 2009 organised by Paolo Fabbri and Tiziana Migliore, published with the other papers in the Journal of Art Historiography, Number 5, December 2011; translated into Chinese in the Journal of Art Theory and Art History, No. 8, 2024. My intention had been to publish a full-length monograph on the subject, but life is short and I have more interesting things to do

In my work as editor of the journal I make a point of reading around the subjects of its special topics, which have included German, Austrian, Australian, Islamic, Chinese, and Persian art historiography. Needless to say, I read all of the papers submitted to the journal. Reading proposals and manuscripts for the Routledge series is another activity that can involve much supplementary reading.

Other activities


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