Professor Rebecca Fortnum MA (Oxon), MFA, PhD

Job Title:

Head of School of Fine Art


School of Fine Art


Rebecca Fortnum
Prosopopoeia (Dalou), oil on board, 20 x 25 cm (each panel), 2019

Rebecca Fortnum


Professor Rebecca Fortnum

Rebecca Fortnum is an artist, writer and academic. She studied at Camberwell College of Art (Foundation), Corpus Christi College, Oxford (MA (Oxon), English Literature & Language), Newcastle University (MFA, Painting) and Kingston University (PhD by publication).

Rebecca’s research falls into four categories;
• Artists’ processes and research methods
• Women artists and their practices
• Painting and drawing practice
• Fine Art pedagogy

Rebecca was Reader in Fine Art at University of the Arts London (2008-13), Professor of Fine Art at Middlesex University (2013-16) and Professor of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (2016-21), where she was Research Lead in the School of Arts and Humanities.

In 2004-9 Rebecca was Research Fellow with the Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Art at Lancaster University, leading a project called Visual Intelligences that investigated the methods of processes of material fine art practices. This led to a publication, On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, published by Black Dog and Kettle’s Yard, which she co-edited with Dr Elizabeth Fisher in 2013. In 2008 she established Paint Club, an informal painting research network at UAL, and she is Founding Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Painting published by Intellect.

Rebecca’s long-standing interest in women artists resulted in the 2008 publication, Contemporary British Women Artists: In Their Own Words, which contains interviews with twenty artists including Christine Borland, Tacita Dean and Tracey Emin. More recently she has published an essay, ‘Baggage Reclaim; some thoughts of painting and feminism’ (2017) and her most recent book, A Companion to Contemporary Drawing, (2020) co-edited with Kelly Chorpening, includes her chapter, ‘A Dirty Double Mirror: Drawing, Autobiography and Feminism’, which explores the feminist potential of the ‘autographical’ in work by Frances Stark, Emma Talbot and Nicola Tyson.

Rebecca has had solo shows at the Natalie Barney Gallery (2020), Semmer Berlin (2015), Freud Museum (2013) and the V&A’s Museum of Childhood (2012), as well as numerous group shows including most recently, Motherline, Flowers East (London), Sleepy Heads Blyth Gallery (London), 49.5, 601 Art Space (New York), Phantom Limn, Dovecot Studios (Edinburgh) and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (London). A monograph, Self Contained, with essays by Maria Walsh, Graham Music and Louisa Minkin was published by RGAP in 2013. In 2019 she was Visiting Research Fellow in Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford developing her project, A Mind Weighted with Unpublished Matter, that includes paintings and drawings from sculptural portraits of known and unknown female subjects. These works have been published in a book of the same name by Slimvolume in 2020 that includes an essay by Gemma Blackshaw as well as an ‘in conversation’ with the painter, Melissa Gordon. In 2021-22 she is Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute developing her project, Sculptural Re-Membering, an investigation of 19th century portraiture of women, in particular that by women sculptors.

In 2014 she co-curated, Just What is it That Makes Today’s Art Schools So Different, So Appealing symposium at the ICA London and co-edited a special edition of the Journal of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education on the challenges of Fine Art pedagogy, emerging from her work with the Paradox European Forum for Fine Art. She completed various pedagogical research projects on fine art education with the CLIP CETL and as a Teaching Fellow at University of the Arts London (2008-9).
Rebecca has received various awards including from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, British Council, Arts Council of England, British School in Rome, AHRC, the Art House’s Space for 10 award for mid-career artists, and the METHOD Cultural Leadership Programme. In the 1990s she was instrumental in founding the London artist-run galleries, Cubitt and Gasworks.