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Frances Spalding

College positions:
Art Committee Chair, Emeritus Fellow
History of Art
Department of History of Art
Contact details:

Professor Frances Spalding

Frances Spalding is an art historian and biographer.

She began publishing pieces for The Times Literary Supplement, The Burlington Magazine and other journals while still a postgraduate student. Her British Art Since 1900, in Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series, established her as a specialist in 20th-century British art. She then turned to biography, first writing a life of Vanessa Bell, widely used by American scholars of Virginia Woolf, and afterwards a life of the poet Stevie Smith. Biographies of John Minton, Duncan Grant, Gwen Raverat, and John and Myfanwy Piper followed.

In the mid-1990s, the Tate invited Professor Spalding to write a centenary history of this national institution. It required her to weave multiple ingredients into a complex narrative, a method taken further in her recent book, The Real and Romantic: English Art since Two World Wars, which moves firmly into the field of cultural history. Between 2000 and 2015, she taught at Newcastle University, becoming Professor of Art History, also writing a monograph on the artist Prunella Clough; an introduction to the Bloomsbury Group; and Virginia Woolf: Art, Life, Vision, which was accompanied by a National Portrait Gallery exhibition of the same title, guest-curated by Professor Spalding. She acted as Editor of The Burlington Magazine, 2015-16.

Frances first came to Clare Hall as the Ashby Lecturer in 1998. She stayed on as a Visiting Fellow before moving to Newcastle University. She later returned to Cambridge as a Visiting Research Fellow at Newnham and sat on the Clare Hall Art Committee. Made a Fellow of Clare Hall in 2015, she is now Emeritus Fellow and Chair of the Art Committee. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art and in 2005 was made a CBE for Services to Literature.

Select publications

  • Vanessa Bell: A Biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson/ Ticknor Field, (1983). Paperback editions by Pan/Macmillan, Harcourt Brace, Tempus Publishing and, recently, I B Tauris (2014). Also translated into Japanese
  • British Art since 1900, Thames & Hudson, World of Art series, 1986 (much reprinted, still available in USA as ‘print on demand’) Translated into Chinese
  • Dance Till the Stars Come Down: A Biography of John Minton, John Curtis/Hodder, 1991. Revised and extended edition, Lund Humphries (2005)
  • The Bloomsbury Group, National Portrait Gallery Publications, (1997). Revised and republished in the new ‘Insights’ series, (2005). New edition (2019)
  • Duncan Grant: A Biography, Chatto & Windus, (1997); Pimlico paperback, (1999)
  • The Tate: A History, Tate Gallery Publications (1998)
  • John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art, Oxford University Press (2009), hardback and paperback.
  • The Real and The Romantic: English Art between Two World Wars, Thames & Hudson (2022)

Select awards

  • Leverhulme Emeritus Research Grant 2021
  • Visiting Research Fellowship, Newnham College, Cambridge, 2005
  • Paul Mellon Research Fellowship, 2005
  • AHRC Award towards initial research on John Piper, 2002

Further links