Sean Willcock is Departmental Lecturer in the History of Art. He was previously a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, and has held teaching positions at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Hong Kong, and on the Yale in London programme. He received his PhD from the University of York in 2014 for his thesis on the imagery of political crisis in the British Raj. His work has been awarded research funding from the Art and Humanities Research Council, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, the Yale Center for British Art, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Leverhulme Trust. He is Reviews Editor at the journal History of Photography.
Sean’s interests span art, photography and print culture in the long nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the visual legacies of the British Empire. His first monograph, Victorian Visions of War and Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty and Violence in the British Empire, c. 1851-1900 (Yale University Press / Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) will be published in November 2021. The book explores how the rise of photography and the illustrated press in the mid-nineteenth century intersected with the discourses and practices of the fine arts in ways that came to profoundly shape the Victorian experience of colonialism. It encompasses war photography, landscape painting, newspaper illustration, portraiture practices, museum cultures and the visual histories of ethnography. His current research project considers the wide-ranging traffic that developed between art and violence during the Victorian era, from visual ephemera depicting crime and punishment to oil paintings representing global warfare. He is interested in the role that visual archives play in shaping the cultural memory of historical violence.
Victorian Visions of War and Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty and Violence in the British Empire, c. 1851-1900 (Yale University Press / Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, forthcoming)
‘Picturesque Conflict: Photography and the Aesthetics of Violence in the British Empire, c. 1857-1900, in Juliet Hacking (ed), Photography and Art: The First Hundred Years (Bloomsbury, 2020), 85-98.
‘Guilt in the Archive: Photography and the Amritsar Massacre of 1919’, History of Photography, 43:1, 2019, 47-59.
‘Aesthetics of the Negative: Orientalist Portraiture in the Digitised Wet Collodion Prints of John Thomson (1837-1921)’, Photoresearcher, special issue: ‘Photographs in Motion: Circulating Images of Asia around 1900’, 30, Autumn 2018, 96-110.
‘Composing the Spectacle: Colonial Portraiture and the Coronation Durbars of British India, 1877-1911’, Art History, 40: 1, 2017, 132-155.
‘Insurgent Citizenship: Dr John Nicholas Tresidder’s Photographs of War and Peace in British India, c. 1857-1862’, British Art Studies, Issue 4, Autumn 2016, online journal.
‘Aesthetic Bodies: Posing on Sites of Violence in India, c.1857-1900’, History of Photography 38:2, June 2015, 142-159.
‘A Neutered Beast? British Representations of the Sons of Tipu Sultan – “The Tiger of Mysore” – as Hostages in the 1790s’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 36, issue 1, March 2013, 121-147.