Research Assistant, Western Art Department

Contact Details

Email address:
Social media: @MaddieHewitson 

Madeline Hewitson's staff photo, Research Assistant on the Chromotope project

Maddie Hewitson


Research summary

My research focuses on the visual cultures that emerged from British encounters with the Middle East in the Victorian period. My work analyses Orientalist visual culture through a post-Saidean framework which explores the ways artists engaged with, resisted and re-scripted Orientalist discourses.

My PhD research analysed the Orientalist paintings, domestic interiors and Islamic art collection of the artist, Frederic Leighton. I explored Leighton’s Orientalism through the lens of global Victorian studies to demonstrate how travel transformed his established interests in biblical art and Classicism, against the wider context of British diplomacy and imperial expansion in the Middle East.

My current work builds on similar themes around British art and the Middle East. Two recent articles in Sculpture Journal highlighted the interlinked contexts of Orientalism, imperialism and Christianity in the sculpture at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Currently, as a research assistant at the Ashmolean, I explore the new ways colour was conceived across art and culture during the 19th century, which will be the subject of the Ashmolean's forthcoming exhibition, 'Colour Revolution: Art, Fashion & Design' opening in September 2023.



I gained my doctorate in art history from the University of York in 2020, where I also completed my BA and MA. During my MA I had a year-long placement at the Hepworth Wakefield museum as part of a studentship. My doctoral thesis, supervised by Professor Jason Edwards, explored the Near Eastern travels of Victorian artist and President of the Royal Academy, Frederic Leighton.

I'm also very interested in public engagement and have organised several international conferences with partners such as York Art Gallery and Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.


Select publications

'Victorian Exodus: Visualising the Old Testament in the Dalziels’ Bible Gallery' (1881) in Madeleine Thiele and Sheona Beaumont (eds.) John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Religious Imagination: Sacre Conversazioni, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), pp. 178–196. 

‘Monument to Men Massacred in the Sinai Desert (1883): Empire and Orientalism at St. Paul’s Cathedral’, Sculpture Journal 31, no. 2 (Summer 2022), pp. 155–174. 

‘Scheherazade (n.d.) by Sophie Anderson’ In Conversation: Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, edited by Susie Beckham, Aspectus, no. 2 (Fall 2020), pp. 1–18

‘Leighton House: Private Collection and Public Display’, British Art Studies 9 (Summer 2018).

‘1875: Babylonians in Burlington House’, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769-2018 (London: Paul Mellon Centre for British Art and The Royal Academy, 2018)


Featured projects