Dr Richard Johns



BA (York), MA (Courtauld Institute of Art), PhD (York)

Richard Johns is Lecturer in the History of Art. His research centres on art and visual culture in Britain during the long eighteenth century, with a special interest in grand-scale decorative history painting. He joined the department in 2013, having previously worked as a curator of art at the National Maritime Museum, London.

Departmental roles



The principal focus of Richard’s research has been the often overlooked field of grand-scale decorative history painting, a form of site-specific elite visual culture that flourished in England for half a century or more following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. His work combines a close reading of specific painted interiors with a fresh look at the interpretive and methodological challenges that such schemes pose for modern scholars. He is currently completing a book-length study of the work of the English artist James Thornhill (1675–1734).

As a curator at the National Maritime Museum from 2008 to 2013, Richard researched many aspects of marine painting from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, and co-curated the major touring exhibition Turner and the Sea (2013–14). The principal published outcome of this research is a full-length catalogue, co-authored and edited with Christine Riding. He will further explore some of the themes introduced by the exhibition in a separate essay that foregrounds Turner’s interest in topography and coastal labour in an early series of paintings of the Thames estuary (in progress).

Other publications include an essay on the interventionist role of Netherlandish artists within the milieu of the Painter-Stainers’ Company in London during the closing decades of the seventeenth century, and a new study of caricature and the Royal Navy around 1800 (jointly written with the naval historian James Davey). Richard’s other work in progress embraces a broad definition of British art, including studies of the first works in England by the Italian-born artist Antonio Verrio and the recent public sculpture of contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare MBE.

Research group(s)

Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies

British Art

Available PhD research projects

Richard would welcome enquiries from potential PhD candidates wishing to undertake research in the field of British art, especially of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.



Madeleine Pelling, ‘The Collection of Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Duchess of Portland’



Sophie Carney, ‘The Queen’s House at Greenwich: the material cultures of the courts of Anna of Denmark and Henrietta Maria, 1603-1669’, (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, jointly supervised with Dr Clare McManus, University of Roehampton), awarded February 2013.

Cicely Robinson, ‘The National Gallery of Naval Art at Greenwich’ (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, jointly supervised with Prof. Mark Hallett, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), awarded June 2014.



Selected publications


  •  ‘From the Nore: Turner at the Mouth of the Thames’ in Padiyar, S., Shaw, P. and Simpson, P. (eds), Visual Culture and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (London: Routledge, 2016)
  •  ‘After Van de Velde’ in Hughes, E. (ed.), Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 2016)
  •  ‘Antonio Verrio and the Triumph of Painting at the Restoration Court’ in Hallett, M., Llewellyn, N. and Myrone, M. (eds), Court, Country, City: British Art and Architecture, 1660–1735 (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 2016)
  •  Richard Johns et al, ‘There’s No Such Thing as British Art’,British Art Studies 1 (November 2015) dx.doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-01/conversation
  • Turner and the Sea, co-authored and edited with Christine Riding, Thames & Hudson, 2013. Translated as Turner und das Meer, E.A. Seeman, 2013
  • ‘“Those wilder sorts of Painting”: the painted interior in the age of Antonio Verrio’ in Dana Arnold and David Peters Corbett (eds), A Companion to British Art 1600 to the Present, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, 79–104
  • ‘“The British Caesar”: John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and the visual arts’ in John B. Hattendorf, Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr. and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier (eds), Marlborough: Soldier and Diplomat (Protagonists of History in International Perspective vol. 2), Karwansaray, 2012, 320–55
  • Broadsides: caricature and the navy 1756–1815, co-authored with James Davey, Seaforth for the National Maritime Museum, 2012
  • ‘“An Air of Grandeur & Modesty”: the painted dome of St Paul’s Cathedral’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 42:4 (Summer 2009), 501–27
  • ‘Framing Robert Aggas: the Painter-Stainers’ Company and the “English School of Painters”’, Art History, 31:3 (June 2008), 322–41
  • Catalogue of 154 oil paintings from public collections in East Angliafor the National Inventory of Continental European Paintings (1200–1900). Online database developed by the National Inventory Research Project (www.nicepaintings.org)

Turner and the Sea catalogue ISBN 978-0500239056      Broadsides, Johns ISBN 978-1848321465



Themes and Issues in Eighteenth-Century Art

Cut/Bite/Stamp: the power of print in the eighteenth-century


Landscape Painting in Britain c.1750–1850

External activities

Editorial duties

Since 2010 (ongoing): Editorial Advisory Board, Art History

2010-11: External Review Board, Immediations (the postgraduate journal of the Courtauld Institute)

Advisory duties

Since 2011 (ongoing): Painted Hall Conservation Advisory Panel, Greenwich Foundation

External examiner for the BA in History of Art, Oxford Brookes University, 2015–18

External examiner for the MA in History of Art, University of Sussex, 2016–19



Turner & the Sea (co-curated with Christine Riding)
National Maritime Museum, London: 21 November 2013–21 April 2014
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA: 4 June–1 September 2014

Broadsides: caricature and the navy 1756–1815 (co-curated with James Davey)
National Maritime Museum, London: 25 October 2012–16 April 2013


Invited talks and conferences

‘The Trials of Josiah Wedgwood’, Making Britain Modern conference, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2 July 2016

Cultural Transfers: British art and the Continent workshop, Friedrich-Alexander Universität, Erlangan, 30–31 October 2015

‘Dead British Artists’, Mourning and Morbidity: Death in British Art, symposium, University of York, 10 March 2015

‘Mind the Step’, Animating the Eighteenth-century Country House, National Gallery, London, 5–6 March 2015

‘Get the Flamsteed Look’, Longitudes Examined: Tercentenary Conference on the History of the Board of Longitude and the Determination of Longitude at Sea, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 25–26 July 2014

‘“A New Breed of Men”: George I and his Progeny at Greenwich’, George I 300 Years On: Reconstructing the Succession, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 18–20 June 2014

‘There’s No Such Thing as British Art’, symposium, University of York, 22 May 2014

‘British Art Studies Now’, YCBA workshop, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 25–26 April 2014

‘“Now for the Painter”: Turner and the Sea at Greenwich’, Maritime Culture and Britain in the Age of J.M.W. Turner, National Maritime Museum, 21–22 March 2014

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle at Greenwich’, Yinka Shonibare MBE: Material Positions, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 27 June 2013

‘From the Nore: Turner at the Mouth of the Thames’, research paper, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 26 June 2013

‘Outside-in: a new perspective on English painted interiors’, Association of Art Historians 39th annual conference, Reading, 11-13 April 2013

 ‘Death of the Artist: the sale of James Thornhill’s collection’, Histories of British Art 1660–1735, University of York, 20–22 September 2012

‘J.M.W. Turner and the Thames estuary’, Contested Views: visual culture and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Tate Britain, 19–20 July 2012

‘Maritime Painting in England after the Van de Veldes’, Maritime Painting workshop, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 3 May 2012

‘The painted interior in the age of Antonio Verrio’, Revisiting British Art, 1660–1735, University of York, 7 May 2010

‘“Maritime Affairs”: James Thornhill and the art of navigation’, research paper, Exeter University, 30 January 2010

‘Antonio Verrio’s Sea Triumph of Charles II and the Iconography of Restoration’, research paper, Roehampton University, 25 March 2009

 ‘The Sky’s the Limit: ceiling painting and kingship in late seventeenth-century England’, Art & Politics in Early Modern England symposium, University of York, 14 May 2008

 ‘The City Triumphant: arms, allegory and the body politic in eighteenth-century London’, BSECS annual conference, St Hugh’s College, Oxford, 3–5 January 2008

‘Hogarth’s Paul before Felix revisited’, Hogarth: new perspectives symposium, Tate Britain, London, 26 April 2007

‘The painted staircase in eighteenth-century England’, ASECS annual meeting, Atlanta, GA, 22–25 March 2007

 ‘“The Head is put where the Feet should be”: Caesar as hero and anti-hero at Chatsworth’, Ancient History Seminar, Faculty of Classics, Cambridge, 29 January 2007; and Représentations de Jules César à l'époque moderne, Université Laval, Quebec, 4–6 October 2007

‘“A View from the Top”: St Paul’s Cathedral and the eighteenth-century city’, Literary London Annual Conference, Greenwich University, 13–14 July 2006

‘Thornhill’s county patrons’, research paper, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 19 October 2005

Richard Johns

Contact details

Dr Richard Johns
Department of History of Art
Room V/133

Tel: 01904 322960

Office Hours: Please email if you need to make an appointment.