Douglas Fordham

Professor, Art History


The History of Art, as it has taken shape over the past three centuries, has been profoundly shaped by the legacies of empire, Enlightenment, and exploitation. As a historian of art and the British empire, Douglas Fordham is interested in a wide array of visual art from the seventeenth century to the present in the Anglophone world. He is a co-editor with Tim Barringer and Geoff Quilley of Art and the British Empire (Manchester University Press, 2007), which helped to place empire at the center of the study of British art. His first monograph, British Art and the Seven Years' War: Allegiance and Autonomy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010) examined the relationship of imperial politics to artistic organization in London in the mid-eighteenth century. His second monograph, Aquatint Worlds: Travel, Print, and Empire (Yale University Press, 2019) considered how the newly discovered medium of aquatint printmaking conditioned the representation and reception of the world beyond Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The book takes a particularly close look at the representation of the cave temples of western India, the indigenous and white settler communities of southern Africa, and the Macartney expedition to Qing China. Artists in each of these locations returned to London to collaborate with a team of printmakers, hand-colorists, booksellers, and distributors to produce some of the most beautiful and innovative picture books of the modern era. 

Currently, Douglas is considering what contemporary Aboriginal printmaking can teach us about the colonial visual record of Australia and a troubling tradition of Aboriginal representation. With the assistance of the extraordinary curators and collections at the Kluge Ruhe Collection of Aboriginal Art, Douglas is considering how indigenous voices can be brought more fully into the history of art and empire. 

Douglas earned his BA at Wake Forest University and his MA and PhD at Yale University where he completed a PhD thesis under the direction of Professor Tim Barringer. After two years as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University, Douglas joined the art faculty at UVa in 2005. He is currently advising PhD students on a variety of topics, including British architecture, travel and gender, and Victorian science. He welcomes inquiries from prospective students relating to any aspect of British art, the imperial world in which operated, and the indigenous communities that persisted in the face of it.