Professor Christiana Payne


Professor Emerita of History of Art

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


After her first degree in Modern History at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, Christiana went on to the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she gained an MA and a PhD in History of Art. From 2003 until 2006 she served as Honorary Secretary of the Association of Art Historians. She is a Trustee of the Marc Fitch Fund.


Her research interests are in nineteenth-century British landscape and genre painting, with a particular emphasis on the representation of the poor, the relationship of art to its social and political context, and the representation of landscape features, notably the sea, the coast, and trees. She has curated exhibitions at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, the Djanogly Art Gallery, University of Nottingham, Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, the Fine Art Society, London, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, and the Higgins Bedford. With Juliet McMaster, she was co-curator of a new display at Tate Britain, James Clarke Hook and Painters of the Sea (2006 – 2008). 

Christiana is currently guest curator of an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercolours, which is due to open at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in February 2021. She is writing a book on the representation of trees in American painting and literature, c. 1820-1860.



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Professional information


Selected conference papers given since 2001

  • “The Spectacle of Dress in Victorian Painting”, Locating the Victorians, Science Museum, London, July 2001.
  • “Smugglers, Poachers and Wreckers in Nineteenth-century English Painting”, Social Deviance in England and France, Maison Française, Oxford, July 2003.
  • “Turner’s Studies of the Waves of the Sea”, Turner 2004: New Perspectives, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, January 2004.
  • “Dreaming of the Marriage of the Land and Sea: Samuel Palmer and the Coast”, Samuel Palmer: a British Romantic Artist Reassessed, Paul Mellon Centre, London, January 2006.
  • "The Empty Beach and the Working Beach; John Brett and Walter Langley in the South-west, c. 1870-1900", 'Twixt Land and Sea: The Beach in Literature, Film and Cultural Theory, University of Berne, Switzerland, June 2009.
  • "John Brett: A Pre-Raphaelite Imperialist", Association of Art Historians Annual Conference, University of Reading, April 2013. 
  • "Constable and the Coast", Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century, 1775-1914, Faculty of English, Oxford University, March 2014.
  • Keynote address at Underwater Worlds: Aquatic Visions in Art, Science and Literature, Oxford University, September 2015.
  • "John Constable, Samuel Palmer, and Tree Portraiture in the 1820s", The Memory of Trees, University of Liverpool, April 2017.

Conferences organised since 2001

  • With Leslie Topp and Catherine Whistler, “Making Connections: The Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians”, April 2001, Oxford Brookes University. 
  • With Catherine Whistler (Ashmolean Museum), “Displaced Objects: Perspectives from the Museum and the Academy”, Annual Conference of the Association of Art Historians, Tate Britain, April 2008.
  • With Dinah Roe (English and Modern Languages Dept), Colin Harrison (Ashmolean Museum) and Alastair Wright (Oxford University), "Pre-Raphaelitism: Past, Present and Future", Ashmolean Museum and St John's College, September 2013.
  • With Fiona Stafford (University of Oxford), "Trees and Wellbeing: Past, Present and Future", Oxford Brookes University, May 2018

Seminar Series organised since 2001

  • With Catherine Whistler (Ashmolean Museum) and Alastair Wright (Department of History of Art, Oxford University), History of Art Seminar series, Ashmolean Museum, from 2005.

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