Dr Helen Pierce

Dr Helen Pierce


Dr Helen Pierce
Dr Helen Pierce

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272621
The University of Aberdeen History of Art, School of Divinity, History & Philosophy, 50-52 College Bounds, ABERDEEN, AB24 3DS

I'm group leader for the "British Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Except Portraits" discussion group on Art Detective

I'm also responsible for History of Art's Twitter feed at the University of Aberdeen: follow @abdn_hoa


PhD, History of Art, University of York

MA, History of Art, University of York

BA (Hons), English and History of Art, University of York

I arrived at the University of Aberdeen in September 2010 as a Teaching Fellow in History of Art, having previously been employed as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of York's Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, and as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University. I was appointed as Lecturer in British Art in June 2012. I've also held research fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Research Interests

I carry out research into British art of the early modern period (c.1550-1750), with a particular focus on the interplay between printed images, propaganda and polemic across the seventeenth century. My monograph Unseemly Pictures: Graphic Satire and Politics in Early Modern England redresses an established art historical bias privileging genres such as elite portraiture over printed media, and challenges the presence of a pervasive 'iconophobia' in post-Reformation English culture.

Most recently, I've contributed chapters to edited collections on popular prints in Shakespearean England, and on the amateur artist William Lodge (1649-89), and have also written about the use of printed images as propaganda during the Exclusion Crisis of the 1680s. I'm now working on two projects: a history of British political caricature, from the seventeenth-century to the present day, and a study examining the artistic activities and cultural networking of the late seventeenth-century group known as the 'York Virtuosi'.

Francis Barlow, The Brutish Combatants, c.1679-80, Wellcome Collection

 Francis Barlow, The Brutish Combatants, engraving, 1679-80. Credit: Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Research Grants

2015                 Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Research Support Grant

2008                 Institute for Historical Research, Scouloudi Historical Award

2007                 Huntington Library, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship

2006                 Folger Shakespeare Library, Short-Term Fellowship

2005                 Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Postdoctoral Fellowship

2000-2003         Arts and Humanities Reseach Board Doctoral Award


Teaching Responsibilities

During the second semester of the 2018-19 academic year, I will be on research leave. My usual teaching responsibilities include: 

HA1004 Introduction to Art History (course convenor)

HA1508 Modern Art

HA2009 Cathedrals to Caravaggio

HA2509 Making Masterpieces: Six Works in Context

HA2806 In the Flesh: Art on Location (course convenor)

HA3012/HA4012 Art and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (course convenor)

HA3079 Critical Perspectives in Art History

HA3082/HA4082 Painting in Tudor and Early Stuart England (course convenor)

HA3085/HA4085 Art and Politics in Early Modern Britain (course convenor)

HA3088 Fieldwork 1

HA5032 Art and Business core course


***Winner of the 'Fantastic Feedback' category and nominated for 'Innovative Teaching' in the 2010/11 University of Aberdeen Student-Led Teaching Awards.***

I also welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students looking to carry out doctoral research in the visual arts of early modern Britain.

Together with Professor John Morrison, I am currently supervising Wendy McGlashan's PhD on the Edinburgh barber and self-taught artist John Kay (1742-1826), funded by a Carnegie Scholarship. You can find out more about Wendy's research here.

Further Info

Admin Responsibilities

School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, Student Journey Lead

History of Art Student Engagement and Employability Officer

History of Art Library Representative

History of Art Social Media Officer

Elected member of the University Senate, 2014-18

Recent research papers and public lectures

'"And what were his pictures but to paint out his power?" Portraiture, identity and authority in Cromwellian England", History of Art Research Seminar, University of Glasgow, March 2018; invited speaker.

'Francis Place, William Lodge, and the York Virtuosi', public lecture delivered at Hospitalfield, Arbroath, September 2017, and at Fairfax House, York, November 2017; invited speaker.

'The social life of the polemical print', After Iconophobia: Patrick Collinson's 'Iconoclasm to Iconophobia' Thirty Years On, conference at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, July 2015; invited speaker.

'Who do you think you are? Union and identity in the early portraiture of James VI and I', Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies Research Celebration, alumni showcase at the University of York, January 2015; invited speaker.  

'The printed image in Shakespeare's London', public lecture delivered for the King's Museum Lecture Series, University of Aberdeen, May 2014; invited speaker.

'Unseemly pictures: graphic satire and politics in early modern England', public lecture delivered for Print Shop Window: An Exhibition of Visual Satire at the University of Aberdeen, November 2013; invited speaker.

'"This Ingenious young Gent and excellent artist": William Lodge (1649-1689) and the York Virtuosi', Histories of British Art, 1660-1735: Reconstruction and Transformation, conference at the University of York, September 2012. 

'"There is an abuse of drawing in this": Stephen College and the limits of pictorial libel', Libel in Historical, Literary and Transnational Contexts, c.1580-1780, conference at the British Studies Center, Rutgers University, New Jersey, April 2012; invited speaker.

'Francis Barlow: the political animal', British Art 1660-1735: Close Readings, conference at Tate Britain, London, May 2011; invited speaker.

'Playing for laughs? Cards, cartoons and controversy during the Exclusion Crisis', The Printed Image Within a Culture of Print, conference at the Courtauld Institute, London, April 2011.

'The art of memory: illustrating John Nalson’s Impartial Collection', Readings and Representations of the Seventeenth Century, conference at Chetham’s Library, Manchester, January 2011; invited speaker.

'Political playing cards and the iconography of gambling during the English Restoration', Early Modern Studies conference at the University of Reading, July 2010. 



Unseemly Pictures: Graphic Satire and Politics in Early Modern England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008).

**Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History**

Book chapters

'"This Ingenious young Gent and excellent artist": William Lodge (1649-1689) and the York Virtuosi' in Mark Hallett, Nigel Llewelyn and Martin Myrone (eds.), Court, Country, City: Studies in British Art, Volume 24 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2016).

'Graphic satire and the printed image in Shakespeare's London' in Malcolm Smuts (ed.), The Age of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

'Text and image: William Marshall's frontispiece to the "Eikon Basilike" (1649)' in Geoff Kemp (ed.), Censorship Moments: Reading Censorship Texts (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014); full text available here.

'Images, representation, and counter-representation' in Joad Raymond (ed.), The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, Vol.1: Britain and Ireland to 1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

'Artful ambivalence? Picturing Charles I during the Interregnum' in Jason McElligott and David L. Smith (eds.), Royalists and Royalism During the Interregnum (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010).

 'The devil's bloodhound: Roger L'Estrange caricatured', in Michael Hunter (ed.), Printed Images in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Interpretation (Ashgate Press, 2010).

 'A Dutch devil in Derbyshire: adaptation and appropriation in a 1624 broadside' in Tara Hamling and Richard Williams (eds.), Art Re-Formed? Re-Assessing the Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007).

Journal articles

'"The bold adventure of all": recovering the place of portraiture in Interregnum England", British Art Studies, forthcoming 2020. 

'Francis Place (1647-1728) and his collection of works on paper', Journal of the History of Collections, 2020, doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhaa007

'The devil and the detail: an image of otherness in John Nalson's An Impartial Collection', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 95:2 (2019), 63-81, doi.org/10.7227/BJRL.95.2.4

'Unseemly pictures: political graphic satire in 1620s England', The British Art Journal, 6:1 (2005), 56-61.

'Anti-Episcopacy and graphic satire in England, 1640-1645', The Historical Journal, 47:4 (2004), 809-848.

Review articles

'The public face of early modern England artfully revealed', Reviews in History, May 2013; full text available here.   

'All "sorts of pictures of stories": the print in early modern England’, review article, Huntington Library Quarterly, 74:4 (December 2011), 629-33.


Entries for 'John Collet' (painter) and 'Theodore de Bry' (engraver) in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).