Dr Helen Pierce

Dr Helen Pierce
Dr Helen Pierce
Dr Helen Pierce


Senior Lecturer

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 272621
Office Address

Art History, School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History, 50-52 College Bounds, ABERDEEN, AB24 3DS

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History


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. 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Honorary Curatorial Fellow, Museums and Special Collections, University of Aberdeen (2024-)

External Memberships

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2014-)

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (2020-)

Latest Publications

  • Review of "Scottish Portraiture 1644-1714: David and John Scougall and their Contemporaries" by Carla van de Puttelaar

    Pierce, H.
    Scottish Historical Review, vol. 102, no. 3, pp. 471-473
    Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
  • The Pope and the Grindstone: A Jacobean Satirical Print

    Pierce, H.
    Print Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 131-137
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Francis Place in Glasgow: A Confirmation

    Pierce, H.
    Huntington Library Quarterly
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Francis Place in Ireland

    Pierce, H.
    History Ireland, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 6
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Review of "The Birth of Modern Political Satire: Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708) and the Glorious Revolution" by Meredith McNeill Hale

    Pierce, H.
    Journal of Social History, vol. 55, no. 3, pp. 798-800
    Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles

View My Publications


Research Overview

I carry out research into British art of the early modern period (c.1550-1750), with a major strand of my work focusing 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 (Yale University Press) 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.

I've also written on popular prints in Shakespearean England, the use of printed images as propaganda during the Exclusion Crisis of the 1680s, and on English portraiture of the Interregnum period. 

Most recently, I've been investigating the activities of the York Virtuosi, an group of artists, natural philosophers and antiquaries who gathered in York during the late seventeenth century. I am also writing a history of British political caricature, which is under contract with Reaktion Books.

Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in History, Art History.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me


Accepting PhDs

Art History

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • History of Art
  • Drawing
  • Printmaking
  • British History

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

I'm currently working on two projects: a history of British political caricature, from the seventeenth-century to the present day (for Reaktion Books) and a study examining the artistic activities and cultural networking of the late seventeenth-century group known as the 'York Virtuosi'. The latter is connected to research I've already published on the amateur artists William Lodge and Francis Place.

 Page from Mary Darly, A Book of Caricaturas (1762)         Francis Place, Studies of Waterfowl, c.1700

(left) Mary Darly, page from A Book of Caricaturas, 1762.

(right) Francis Place, Studies of Waterfowl, c.1700.

Both images © The Trustees of the British Museum, via a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Creative Commons licence.


Knowledge Exchange

You can read about my work on the sketching tours of Francis Place on the 'Curious Travellers' and British Society for Eighteenth-Century studies websites:



I've delivered public lectures on Francis Place for the National Gallery of Ireland, Fairfax House in York, and Hospitalfield, Arbroath


In collaboration with colleagues from Museums and Special Collections at the University of Aberdeen, I co-curated the 2024 exhibition "Striking Impressions", which examines how we depict and interpret faces. My research into caricature informed the selection of a number of exhibits, and it was fascinating to work with a range artefacts from around the world depicting distorted and exaggerated faces and bodies.

You can read the press release for "Striking Impressions" here: www.abdn.ac.uk/news/22807/




My current supervision areas are: Art History.

Michael Partington, "Paper-Kingdoms: the illustrated books of John Ogilby and the early modern world", 2023-onwards.

Kirsty Haslam, "An Investigation into the social context and cultural impact of warfare in late medieval and early modern Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire", co-supervised with Dr Alastair Macdonald, AHRC funded, 2019-2022.

Wendy McGlashan, "'A new species of liberty': John Kay’s Edinburgh portraits, 1781-1822", co-supervised with Professor John Morrison, Carnegie Trust funded, 2016-2019.

Funding and 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

I teach across a range of undergraduate courses in Art History at the University of Aberdeen, including specialist Honours-level courses in British art c.1500-1800; I co-ordinate HA1004 Introduction to Art History at Level 1, and the Art History dissertation course for our final year undergraduates. 

At postgraduate level, I deliver the course HA552U Scottish Visual History for the online MLitt in Scottish Heritage, and contribute to team-taught courses for Scottish Heritage and the MLitt in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. 

Non-course Teaching Responsibilities

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History, Student Engagement and Employability Lead

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History, Senior Personal Tutor

Art History Student Engagement and Employability Officer

Art History Social Media Officer

Elected member of the University Senate, 2014-18