Dr. Helen McCormack BA(Hons) MA(RCA) PhD

Job Title:

Lecturer, Forum for Critical Inquiry





Richard Earlom, after Johan Zoffany
‘The Royal Academy of Arts Instituted by the King in the Year 1768’

Richard Earlom, after Johan Zoffany


Dr. Helen McCormack

Helen studied Art History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Design History at the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2004 Helen was awarded the David Carritt Scholarship in the History of Art at the University of Glasgow to complete her PhD: ‘A Collector of the Fine Arts in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Dr. William Hunter (1718-1783)’, supervised by Professor Alison Yarrington. As a lecturer in the Forum for Critical Inquiry, Helen teaches courses in the history and theory of art and design from the eighteenth century to the present. These courses emphasise the ways that the specific historical and cultural conditions of production of art works and designed objects are deeply inscribed within artefacts themselves. Therefore, while centred on historical themes and periods, her teaching encourages the application of theoretical perspectives from, for example, material culture, consumerism, anthropology, philosophy and aesthetics.

Helen’s current research interests are focused on a monograph, developed from her PhD thesis and to be published by Ashgate in 2016, entitled: William Hunter and his Eighteenth-Century Cultural Worlds: The Anatomist and the Fine Arts. The book explores how Hunter's practice of anatomy, in particular, intersected with a cultural fascination for the relationship between fine art and design practice and natural philosophy during this period. Other research interests include an essay in preparation (Anthem Press) on the subject of the eighteenth-century naturalist Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and the University of Wales, Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. This essay explores the close connections between Thomas Pennant, William Hunter and George Stubbs and their promotion and understanding of knowledge of natural history and natural philosophy as embodied within the fine arts, in drawings, prints and oil painting. Developing on from these interests another area of Helen’s research explores aspects of design, diagrammatic image making, and emerging technologies of graphic reproduction in the creation of scientific atlases within eighteenth-century society and culture.

Helen’s research has attracted support from the Wellcome Trust and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and she has been awarded a Visiting Scholarship at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

She is interested in supervising students within the broad areas of British art and design from the eighteenth century to the present day, specifically in the field of material culture and consumption studies, the history of collecting, medical history, the natural sciences, and enlightenment-era art and culture.