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Dr Emma Barker

Profile summary

Professional biography

BA History (Cambridge), MA Art History, PhD Art History (Courtauld, London)

Emma Barker’s research focuses on French eighteenth-century art. She has also published and supervised research on art in eighteenth-century Britain.   

She joined the OU in September 1995, after having worked as a temporary lecturer at the universities of East Anglia, York, Warwick and Sussex.

Research interests

Dr Barker has published extensively on the work of the French eighteenth-century artist, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and on the wider phenomenon of sentimentalism in the art of this period, of which Greuze was a leading exponent. Her principal publication in this area is her book, Greuze and the Painting of Sentiment (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

She has also published essays on portraiture in eighteenth-century France and Britain, as well as on different aspects of French art of this period. Her research has appeared in such journals as the Art Bulletin, Art History, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Oxford Art Journal and Representations.

Her current research explores art and blindness in France between the ancien regime and the modern era. This project, which develops out of her interest in the role of vision and spectatorship in sentimentalism, examines images of the blind by both canonical and little-known artists across the full range of French visual culture. It seeks thereby to illuminate the ways in which blindness has historically been constructed in relation to the experience of sight and, moreover, provides a test case for assessing arguments about the changing significance of vision in French culture during the transition to modernity.

Dr Barker’s research has been supported by grants from the British Academy.

Teaching interests

Dr Barker has contributed module materials to over ten modules, including, most recently, A226 (Exploring Art and Visual Culture), A344 (Art and its Global Histories) and A843 (MA Art History Part 1). The topics of the module materials that she has authored range from ‘Dutch seventeenth-century art in global perspective’ to ‘Art in Paris in the 1930s’.

She was chair of the MA in Art History from 2004 to 2010. She is currently deputy chair of the new second level module in production, A236.

Prospective PhD students interested in conducting research into art and visual culture of the period from the mid-seventeenth to mid-nineteenth centuries should contact Dr Barker by email.

Impact and engagement

Dr Barker has given public lectures at various venues, including the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery, Chawton House Library and the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. 

She has also spoken at and co-organised study days at the National Gallery, London, including ‘Subversive Portraits: Goya and his Legacy’ (2015) and ‘Romantic Rebellions: Delacroix to Picasso’ (2016), as well as contributing to a study day at Tate Modern, 'Myths of the Artist' (2010). 

She contributed an essay to the catalogue of the exhibition, ‘Inspiration: Iconic Works’, held at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, and the Ateneum, Helsinki, in 2020.

She also contributed to an episode of ‘In Our Time’ on BBC Radio 4, on The Artist (2002)

In addition, she has made two films for Open Arts Objects, on Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus (National Gallery, London) and Jean-Baptiste Chardin's Lady Taking Tea (Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow). A series of four short films that she made on The Seasons in Art is available as a short OpenLearn course.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Gender in the Humanities Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
The Arts and their Audiences Research ClusterClusterFaculty of Arts


Woman in a Turban: Domenichino’s Sibyl, Staël’s Corinne and the Image of Female Genius (2023)
Barker, Emma
Word and Image, 39(2) (pp. 235-259)

Envisioning Blindness in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2020-03-10)
Barker, Emma
Oxford Art Journal, 43(1) (pp. 91-116)

'No Picture more Charming’: The Family Portrait in Eighteenth-Century France (2017-05-11)
Barker, Emma
Art History, 40(3) (pp. 526-553)

Reading the Greuze Girl: the daughter's seduction (2012-01)
Barker, Emma
Representations, 117 (pp. 86-119)

From Charity to Bienfaisance: Picturing Good Deeds in Late Eighteenth-Century France (2010-10)
Barker, Emma
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33(3) (pp. 285-311)

Imaging childhood in eighteenth-century France: Greuze's Little Girl with a Dog (2009-12-01)
Barker, Emma
Art Bulletin, 91(4) (pp. 426-445)

Rehabilitating the Rococo (2009)
Barker, Emma
Oxford Art Journal, 32(2) (pp. 306-313)

Mme Geoffrin, painting and galanterie: Carle Van Loo’s Conversation espagnole and Lecture espagnole (2007-07)
Barker, Emma
Eighteenth-Century Studies, 40(4) (pp. 587-614)

Painting and Reform in Eighteenth-Century France: Greuze's L'Accordé de Village (1997)
Barker, Emma
Oxford Art Journal, 20(2) (pp. 42-52)

Greuze and the painting of sentiment (2005-04)
Barker, Emma
ISBN : 521555086 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge, UK

Ghosts and Heroes: Girodet and the Ossianic Mode in Post-Revolutionary French Art (2016-09-29)
Barker, Emma
In: Padiyar, Satish; Shaw, Philip and Simpson, Philippa eds. Visual Culture and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (pp. 102-119)
ISBN : 978-1-4724-4711-1 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York

Georgiana at Althorp: Spencer Family Portraits 1755-1783 (2013)
Barker, Emma
In: Perry, Gillian; Retford, Kate; Vibert, Jordan and Lyons, Hannah eds. Placing Faces: The Portrait and the Country House 1650-1850
ISBN : 9780719090394 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester

Greuze and England (2013)
Barker, Emma
In: Andries, Lise; Ogée, Frédéric; Dunkley, John and Sanfey, Daragh eds. Intellectual Journeys: The Translation of Ideas in Enlightenment England, France and Ireland. Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (pp. 133-165)
ISBN : 978-0-7294-1078-6 | Publisher : Voltaire Foundation | Published : United Kingdom

Putting the viewer in the frame: Greuze as sentimentalist (2007-04-02)
Barker, Emma
In: Conisbee, Philip ed. French Genre Painting in the Eighteenth Century. Studies in the History of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (pp. 105-127)
ISBN : 9780300120240 | Publisher : Yale University Press | Published : New Haven, US

The Virtuous Widow in Late Eighteenth-Century Art (2023-11)
Barker, Emma
In : Widows in the 17th and 18th Centuries: Images of Social Status—Accepted, Hidden, Claimed? (15 Jun 2021, Online) (pp. 108-123)