I am a historian and theorist of writing on art, and a historian of modern art (particularly in Britain). I joined St Andrews in 2016, before which I was a Research Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge.
My most recent book is Interpreting Art (UCL Press, 2022). This is a new take on the writing of art history and interpretation. There are many 'theories and methods' books, histories of art writing, and 'how to look' guides, but these tend to search for difference and division. Interpreting Art instead examines general features of interpretation across times, places, and schools of thought, doing so in part by focusing on what interpreters actually do over what they say they do. The book is available fully open access from the UCL Press site. (Hard copies are also available from the UCL site and in North America from the University of Chicago Press).
Preliminary essays for Interpreting Art on the practical, theoretical and material conditions of art writing include analyses of description and close looking (‘Close Looking and Conviction’, Art History, 2017), aesthetics and the aesthetic (‘The Fear of Aesthetics in Art and Literary Theory’, New Literary History, 2017), the history and practice of peer review in art history and the humanities ('Peer Review in Art History', Burlington Magazine, 2019), and perceptual plasticity (‘Perception’ (co-authored with Bence Nanay), in A Companion to Arthur C. Danto, 2022).
My previous book, Art and Form: From Roger Fry to Global Modernism (Penn State University Press, 2019), gives a historical account of the central place of form and formalism in modernist culture. Recovering formalism’s emphasis on contact and communication – as opposed to ‘art for art’s sake’ escapism - the book explores connections to the histories of connoisseurship, art criticism, aesthetics, art education, design theory, colonial and anti-colonial art theory, and (through to the present) ‘global modernism’. The introduction (uncorrected proof) can be read here.
I have developed Art and Form’s ideas on postimpressionism as a style with both universalist and ‘global’ claims in the essay ‘Postimpressionism: Universal, British, Global’, Art History (forthcoming, 2022), and have given a more general analysis of formalism and postformalism as art historical methods in ‘Formalism: Problematic, Inevitable, Post’, in The Blackwell Companion to the Theories and Methods of Art History (forthcoming, 2023). An earlier essay on the historicist claims of formalism was published as ‘The Significance of Form’, Nonsite, 2017). The artist Walter Richard Sickert’s engagement with and resistance to Roger Fry and formalism has also been explored in an essay for the Tate/Petit Palais 2022 Sickert exhibition catalogue, as well as in '"With an Almost Pathetic Fatality Doing What is Right”: Late Sickert and his Critics’, Art History, 2014).
At St Andrews I teach courses on art writing, on approaches to the history and theory of art, on modern art in Britain, and on global modernism (a kind of critical survey course of supposedly non-canonical modernisms around the world). Beyond St Andrews I am an editorial board member of Art History and a former member of the Executive Steering Committee of the British Association for Modernist Studies (2016-19).
Get in touch at:
sper (at) st-andrews (dot) ac (dot) uk
Dr Sam Rose
Senior Lecturer in Art History
School of Art History
University of St Andrews
79 North Street