Professor Shearer West

Head of Humanities Division and Fellow of Magdalen College

Shearer West came to Oxford in 2011 as Head of the Humanities Division. She is the author, or editor, of nine books on aspects of eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth-century European art, and many prize-winning essays and articles. Her specialist area is the history of portraiture.

Shearer obtained her BA degree in Art History and English at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and her PhD in Art History at St Andrews.  She worked as an editor for the Grove Dictionary of Art before taking up an academic post in Art History at the University of Leicester. In 1996, she moved to the University of Birmingham as Head of the History of Art Department, then Head of the School of Historical Studies and briefly Acting Head of the College of Arts and Law.  She was awarded a personal chair in 2000. 

In 2008 she was seconded to be Director of Research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her AHRC role included overseeing the strategic direction of arts and humanities research programmes, including knowledge transfer, and she has held a number of international leadership roles, including chairing the Joint Research Programmes for the European Humanities network (HERA). While at AHRC, she was also appointed chair of the RCUK Research Group, which consists of Research and Science Directors across all seven of the Research Councils.

She has been a Visiting Fellow at Yale University twice, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Historical Society, and was a member of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise panel in History of Art.

Selected Publications

  • Portraiture (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • The Visual Arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair (Manchester University Press and Rutgers University Press, 2000)
  • (ed.) Italian Culture in Northern Europe in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
  • Fin de Siècle: Art and Society in an Age of Uncertainty (Bloomsbury and Overlook Press, 1993)
  • The Image of the Actor: Verbal and Visual Representation in the Age of Garrick and Kemble (Pinter Publishers, 1991)

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