Print Room Manager, Department of Western Art


Dr Caroline Palmer

Dr Caroline Palmer

Photography: Wendy Aldiss 

Research Summary

As Manager of the Western Art Print Room, I enable visitor access to the Ashmolean’s major holdings of European works of art on paper. This is one of the busiest Print Rooms in the UK, and we pride ourselves on our unparalleled public access. As well as caring for the collection and advising individual visitors, Print Room staff arrange sessions for history of art and fine art students, visiting societies, U3A groups, and research scholars, as well as supporting the Museum’s Learning department.

I regularly give Print Room talks for the general public on a wide range of subjects related to the collection (including women artists, watercolour, Russian drawings, extra-illustration, sketchbooks and caricatures). I have lectured for Wyvern NADFAS, Lechlade Art Society, and the Oxford Lieder Festival. With my colleague Katherine Wodehouse, I regularly devise displays for the Print Room area and develop online content related to the prints and drawings collection. I have curated three exhibitions for Broadway Museum and Art Gallery: ‘Artists under Fire: Remembering the Great War 1914–1918’ (based on the online exhibition listed below), ‘In the Groove: Gertrude Hermes and the Natural World’, and 'Painting Faces: The Art of Flattery'. These subsequently became part of the Ashmolean's touring exhibitions programme. I have contributed to two major museum publications, and am currently researching the Museum’s collection of sketchbooks of the illustrator Edward Ardizzone.

My own research has explored the interaction of class and gender in the reception of art in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, with a particular focus on attitudes to the female spectator and women’s writing on art. I have presented papers for the OU History of Art seminars, Oxford Brookes and the University of Sussex, as well as lecturing at Chawton House, Tate Britain, the Wallace Collection and National Gallery.


I studied Modern and Medieval Languages at King’s College, Cambridge, before becoming an editor with art publishers Thames & Hudson. As a freelance editor, I then worked for Routledge, Penguin (Pevsner Guides), Calmann & King, Everyman, and the Royal Fine Art Commission. In 2009 I completed my PhD in Art History: ‘Women writers on art and perceptions of the female connoisseur, 1780–1860’ (AHRC). This focused on Maria Callcott, Anna Jameson, Mary Philadelphia Merrifield and Elizabeth Eastlake, and explored the travel writing of Anna Miller, Mary Berry and Mariana Starke, the art criticism of Sarah Flower Adams, and the iconographical studies of Louisa Twining. A former Associate Lecturer in the History of Art at Oxford Brookes University, I have worked in the Western Art Print Room since 2009. In 2016 I was co-editor of ‘Discovering Ancient and Modern Primitives: The Travel Journals of Maria Callcott, 1827–28’, Walpole Society, vol. 78.



Articles and reviews

‘Brazen Cheek: Face-painters in late eighteenth-century England’, Oxford Art Journal, 31.2 (2008): 195–213. Based on MA dissertation: ‘“Evidently paint-painted”: Cosmetics and Portraiture in England, 1750–1800’ (Jeanne Sheehy Memorial Prize)

Review of Deborah Cherry and Janice Helland (eds), Local/Global: Women Artists in the Nineteenth Century, Ashgate (2006); Jordana Pomeroy (ed.), Intrepid Women: Victorian Artists Travel, Ashgate (2005); Meaghan Clarke, Critical Voices: Women and Art Criticism in Britain 1880–1905, Ashgate (2005), for Gender and History, 21.2 (August 2009): 444–47

‘Colour, Chemistry and Corsets: Mary Philadelphia Merrifield's Dress as a Fine Art’, Costume, 47.1 (2013): 3–27

Review of Susanna Avery-Quash and Julie Sheldon, Art for the Nation: The Eastlakes and the Victorian Art World, Yale University Press (2011), for Journal of the History of Collections, 25.2 (July 2013): 292–94

“‘I Will Tell Nothing That I Did Not See’: British Women's Travel Writing, Art, and the Science of Connoisseurship, 1776–1860”, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 51.3 (2015): 248–68

Review of Maureen McCue, British Romanticism and the Reception of Italian Old Master art, 1793–1840,  Ashgate (2014), for Byron Journal, 43.2 (2015): 177–181

Carly Collier and Caroline Palmer (eds), ‘Discovering Ancient and Modern Primitives: The Travel Journals of Maria Callcott, 1827–28’, Walpole Society, vol. 78 (2016) ; ‘Maria Callcott’s Honeymoon Journals, 1827–28: The Missing Fragment’, Walpole Society, vol. 80 (2018)

‘“A fountain of the richest poetry”: Anna Jameson, Elizabeth Eastlake and the rediscovery of early Christian art’, Visual Resources (special issue on ‘Women’s Expertise and the Culture of Connoisseurship’), vol. 33.1-2 (2017):48-73

‘Picking up the thread: exploring the designs of May Morris in the Ashmolean Museum’, Journal of the Decorative Arts Society, 
42 (2018): 122–141.

Ashmolean Museum publications

The Ashmolean Museum: Crossing Cultures, Crossing Time (2015), ed. by Christopher Brown and Katherine Wodehouse (30 entries on drawings, prints, photographs, paintings, sculpture and manuscripts)

Colin Harrison, Caroline Palmer, Katherine Wodehouse et al., Great British Drawings, exh. cat. (Ashmolean Museum), 2015

Articles for the Ashmolean Magazine on Lady Eastlake drawings album (no. 61, spring 2011), Maria Callcott and Thomas Stothard (no. 63, spring 2012), Gertrude Hermes sketchbooks (no. 65, spring 2013), ‘Artists under Fire’ (no. 70, autumn 2015) and ‘In the Groove’ (no. 73, spring 2017) exhibitions; ‘Louisa Twining: from watercolour lessons to workhouse reform’ (no. 75, spring 2018); 'Painting Faces: The Art of Flattery' (no. 77, spring 2019)

Online publications

‘Mary Philadelphia Merrifield and the alliance with science’:

Artists Under Fire:

Introduction to Anna Jameson's 'Legends of the Madonna, as represented in the Fine Arts', Bloomsbury History of Modern Aesthetics

“‘A revolution in art’: Maria Callcott on Poussin, Painting, and the Primitives”, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 2019(28). 

Maria, Lady Callcott (19 July 1785–21 November 1842)”, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 2019(28).

Translations (for the ‘New Horizons’ series, Thames & Hudson)

Pompeii: The Day a City Died (1992) by Robert Etienne; Rodin: The Hands of Genius (1992) by Hélène Pinet; Lost Cities of the Maya (1992) by Claude Baudez and Sydney Picasso