Creative Arts


Prof Alison Yarrington

Photo of Prof Alison Yarrington

Professor of Art History

Alison Yarrington is Professor of Art History. An art historian specialising in the history of British art and sculpture c.1750-1914, her research interests include sculpture’s display histories, the marble trade, women and sculpture, public sculpture, maritime sculpture, and, more broadly, British-Italian cultural transactions and the history of collections and collecting.

Alison took a Foundation Course at Chesterfield College of Art and Design before a BA (Honours) in Fine Art and Art History at the University of Reading. She went on to complete her PhD in Art History at the University of Cambridge, Darwin College: The Commemoration of the Hero 1800-1864: Monuments to the British Victors of the Napoleonic Wars. Her academic career started at the University of Leicester as a Lecturer in the History of Art, and then as Chair in Art History and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. In 2003 she was appointed Richmond Professor of Fine Art at the University of Glasgow and Head of the Department of Art History and then of the Institute of Art History. She was appointed Professor of Art History and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Hull in 2011 before coming to Loughborough as Professor of Art History and Dean of the School of the Arts, English and Drama in 2014. She completed her period of office as Dean in December 2018 and is currently on research leave until December 2019. 

Alison is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. She is a Lay Governor of Glasgow School of Art, chairing its Museum and Archive Committee and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Hull. She is on the Board of the School of Advance Study, University of London, the Advisory Committee for Subject Specialist Network (SSN) Research on European Paintings led by National Gallery, London, the Steering Panel of Art UK Sculpture and Advisory Board Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. She is a Council member of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society and was President of the Society 2016-17. She served as Chair of the Association of Art Historians 2011-2014 and is Chair of the British National Committee of the International Subject Association for Art History, CIHA, [Comité International d'Histoire de l'Art].

A leading historian of British sculpture, Alison Yarrington’s research encompasses the history of collections, collecting and display, the Anglo-Italian marble trade, women sculptors and public and monumental sculpture c. 1750-1950. As Academic Advisor for the re-display of the Sculpture Gallery at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire she worked closely with the Chatsworth curators, archivists and Cliveden Conservation on this internationally significant collection of contemporary European sculpture and decorative marble items, returning the Gallery to the display that visitors encountered c.1858. (See C. Noble and A. Yarrington ‘Like a Poet’s dreams’: the redisplay of the 6th Duke of Devonshire’s Sculpture gallery at Chatsworth’, Apollo, vol. 170 (November 2009) pp. 46-53.) This major project built on and developed from previous research projects, in particular those  with Professor Cinzia Sicca of Pisa University on the Anglo-Italian marble trade (C.M. Sicca and A. Yarrington, The Lustrous Trade: Material Culture and the History of Sculpture in England and Italy c. 1700-c. 1860, (2000) and ’Turisti britannici a Carrara nella prima metà dell'Ottocento’ in ‘Sognando il marmo’, Cultura e commercio del marmo tra Carrara, Gran Bretagna e Impero (1820-1920 circa) ed. Sandra Berresford Pacini Editore (2009), pp. 178-186:216-219).  She is now completing a study of the 6th Duke’s later collecting projects for publication with Charles Noble, Curator of Fine Art at Chatsworth. Other recent publications in this area include 'Bringing Modern Rome to Chatsworth: The Formation of the 6th Duke of Devonshire's Sculpture Collection', in Tomas Macsotay (ed.), Rome as a Trans-National Sculpture Capital 1770-1825​, (2017), pp. 79-92, and ‘John Gibson and the Anglo-Italian Sculpture Market in Rome: Letters, Sketches and Marble’, Tate Papers, no 29, Spring 2018 

She edited with Stefano Villani and Julia Kelly the book Travels and Translations: Anglo-Italian Cultural Transactions, (Internationale Forschungen Zur Allgemeinen Vergleichenden Litteraturwissenschaft, no. 167), (2013) and she is currently writing a chapter for the book edited by Malcolm Baker and Inge Reist, Sculpture Collections: Collecting, Ordering and Displaying Sculpture, based on a 2017 symposium organised by the Frick Collection’s Center for the History of Collecting, New York Sculpture Collecting and Display, 1600–2000.

Alison has published on women sculptors, notably on Anne Seymour Damer, see for example ‘Anne Seymour Damer: a sculptor of 'republican perfection'’, in Bluestockings Displayed: Portraiture, Performance and Patronage 1730-1830, edited by Elizabeth Eger CUP 2013 pp. 81-99, and recently completed a full-length study of women sculptors working in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  She continues her research in public and monumental sculpture that was the hub of her doctoral research, with a focus on naval commemoration and maritime sculpture in the extended field. She has contributed to the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association Public Sculpture of Britain series (LUP), serving on the Editorial Board. 

As Principal Investigator for the major AHRC-funded online database project Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951. Alison worked with Ann Compton (Project Director and Originator) and Dr Holly Trusted (CI, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, V&A) on this collaborative project between colleagues from the University of Glasgow’s School of Culture and Creative Arts and the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), the V&A London, and the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, jointly funded by the AHRC, the British Academy and the Henry Moore Foundation. This database is the first authoritative study of sculptors, related businesses and trades investigated in the context of creative collaborations, art infrastructures, professional networks and cultural geographies. Containing over 50,000 records about sculptural practice, reflecting significant new research on over 3,000 sculptors and 900-1100 related businesses and trades active in Britain and Ireland, it enables the numerous connections between different areas of practice to be explored by the user. At Loughborough she supervises PhDs on British Sculpture in the immediate post-WWII period and is working on Stewart Mason as a promoter and patron of contemporary sculpture in Leicestershire Schools, having presented her findings at the Stewart Mason: Education, Collection, Exhibition seminar in conjunction with the exhibition City Sculpture Projects 1972 Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. She continues to collaborate with Ann Compton and Holly Trusted developing sculpture projects generated by Mapping Sculpture.


Alison supervises postgraduate students working on British and European sculpture, public and maritime sculpture, eighteenth- and nineteenth century collecting, display and reception, and women sculptors. She is happy to discuss proposals with prospective candidates on any of these areas.

Current PhD supervision

  • Christina (Mimmi) Brandberg, Henry Moore in the Nordic Countries (Loughborough University)

Completions include:

  • Melanie Veasey Reforming Academicians’: Sculptors of the Royal Academy of the Arts, c.1948-59 (Loughborough University)
  • Erica McCarthy,The Changing Purpose of Ships’ Figureheads (a Collaborative Doctoral Award University of Hull and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)
  • Ann Marie Kaylin Weber The Studio and Collection of the 'American Raphael' Benjamin West, (University of Glasgow)
  • Helen McCormack (David Carritt Scholar, University of Glasgow), Dr William Hunter (1718-1783): The Collector as Consumer in 18th-Century Britain