Professor Geraldine A. Johnson

Featured Publication

 '(Un)richtige Aufnahme’: Renaissance Sculpture and the Visual Historiography of Art History, Art History, vol. 36, no. 1 (2013): 12-51.


In three ground-breaking articles published in 1896-97 and 1915, which focused primarily on Italian Renaissance sculpture, Heinrich Wölfflin asked: ‘How should one photograph sculpture?’ In trying to answer this question, he became one of the first scholars to consider explicitly the ‘visual historiography’ of Art History as a discipline. Following Wölfflin’s lead, this essay uses the photographic and, briefly, pre-photographic reproduction of Renaissance sculpture to explore how such images have both reflected and shaped art-historical approaches from Winckelmann’s illustrated surveys, Wölfflin’s and Malraux’s formalism, Berenson’s connoisseurship, Janson’s monographic interests and Panofsky’s iconology, to more recent socio-historical studies and digital applications. By doing so, this article hopes to serve as a prolegomenon for further research on the ‘visual historiography’ of art objects made in many other periods, places and media.

Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction

Botticelli, Holbein, Leonardo, Dürer, Michelangelo: the names are familiar, as are the works, such as the Last Supper fresco, or the monumental marble statue of David. But who were these artists, why did they produce such memorable images, and how would their original beholders have viewed these objects? Was the Renaissance only about great masters and masterpieces, or were "mistresses" also involved, such as women artists and patrons? And what about the 'minor'-pieces that Renaissance men and women would have encountered in homes, churches and civic spaces? This exciting and stimulating volume will answer such questions by considering both famous and lesser-known artists, patrons and works of art within the cultural and historical context of Renaissance Europe. 

  • Early Modern Art and Culture
  • History of Sculpture: Late Medieval to Contemporary
  • Women and the Visual Arts
  • History of Photography
  • Historiography of Art History

I am the co-editor of a prize-winning volume entitled Picturing Women in Renaissance and Baroque Italy (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and the editor of Sculpture and Photography: Envisioning the Third Dimension (Cambridge University Press, 1998). In 2005, Oxford University Press published my book Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction, which has been translated into Chinese, Greek, Turkish, Thai and Vietnamese. At present, I am completing two books, one for Cambridge University Press entitled The Sound of Marble: The Materiality and Immateriality of Italian Renaissance Art, and another entitled Photography and Sculpture, which will be published by Reaktion Books. I have been commissioned by Wiley-Blackwell to edit a major anthology, A Companion to the Theories and Methods of Art History, and I also recently edited a volume entitled Crossing Continents: Exile and Expatriate Histories of Art. Future projects include a co-authored monograph, De-Facing the Portrait: The Early Modern Body in Parts (with Prof. Tatiana String), and an historiographical study entitled Art History's Images. research page

History of Art Department webpage

  • Sensing Devotion: Donatello's Crucifix in S. Croce and the Embodied Devotee

  • Devotion in Motion: Sensory Encounters with Donatello's Crucifix in S. Croce

  • Photography and Sculpture

  • “in consequence of their whiteness”: Photographing marble sculpture from Talbot to today

  • Photographing Sculpture, Sculpting Photography

  • "The Life of Objects": Sculpture as Subject and Object of the Camera's Lens

  • Review of Touching Objects: Intimate Experiences of Italian Fifteenth-Century Art, by Adrian W.B. Randolph

  • Journal of Art Historiography Special Issue

  • Review of The Sculptural Photograph in the Nineteenth Century (special issue of History of Photography), edited by Patrizia Di Bello

  • The Sculptural Photograph in the Nineteenth Century

  • More

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding History of Art and Visual/Material Culture.

I currently teach:


FHS Masters
European Art 1400-1900 Approaches to the History of Art Women, Art and Culture in Early Modern Europe
Antiquity after Antiquity Court Culture and Art in Early Modern Europe Theory and Methods in the History of Art
In the Media
  • Medici: Masters of Florence, series 2 (academic consultant for 8-part television series in production with Big Light and Lux Vide), 2015-16
  • Round-up of Sunday Papers (discussed government plans to change secondary education), BBC Radio Oxford, 2016
  • Woman’s Hour (discussed depicting famous women on banknotes), BBC Radio 4, 2015
  • Round-up of Sunday Papers (discussed the use of images in newspapers), BBC Radio Oxford, 2015
  • Nightwaves (discussed the Sistine Chapel), BBC Radio Oxford, 2000
  • Raphael (discussed women patrons), BBC 1 Television, 2005