Dr Sarah Thomas

School: School of Critical Studies and Creative Industries
Position: Lecturer in Art History & Museum Studies


I have over fifteen years of lecturing and curatorial experience in both the UK and Australia. Since moving to London in 2009 I have taught art history and museum studies at Kingston University, Birkbeck College and UCL. I completed my PhD in 2013 at the University of Sydney. I am currently writing a book, Witnessing Slavery: Travelling Artists in an Age of Abolition, which engages with a variety of vital current debates, ranging from studies of empire; interest in the relationship between art and its related disciplines, anthropology, geography and science; the geo-politics of travel within the 'Black Atlantic'; and more broadly, the critical agency of visual culture in the construction and consolidation of imperial power and identity. I have a particular interest in the colonial and post-colonial art of Britain and its former colonies, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, and Barbados. As curator, my most recent exhibition is Colonial Afterlives, an examination of the legacies of empire in contemporary art.

Related links

Research expertise

My recent research focuses on the art history and museology of the British empire, the role and particularities of the itinerant artist, the iconography of slavery, and the cultural legacies of British slave-ownership. Major publications include The Encounter, 1802: Art of the Flinders and Baudin Voyages (Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002); book chapters including 'Slaves and the spectacle of torture: British artists in the New World, 1800-1834' and 'Allegorizing Extinction: Humboldt, Darwin and the Valedictory Image'; journal articles such as 'The Spectre of Empire in the British Art Museum' (Museum History Journal, 2013) and '"On the Spot": Travelling Artists and Abolitionism, 1770-1830' (Atlantic Studies, June 2011).

Teaching areas & responsibilities

Course Director MA Curating Contemporary Design

Educational and professional qualifications

  • 2013PhD The University of Sydney
  • 1990Post-Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies The University of Sydney
  • 1989Bachelor of Arts (Hons) The University of Sydney, First Class Honours


Curatorial adviser on Tate Britain's exhibition Artist and Empire (2015-16), and co-convenor of the related international symposium; curatorial consultant to private art collectors; Approved Valuer for Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Programme.

Grants, funding and awards

  • 2015Paul Mellon Centre Curatorial Research Grant for development of online exhibition Cultural Legacies of British Slave-ownership
  • 2014Paul Mellon Centre Postgraduate Fellowship
  • 2013David Nicholls Postgraduate Prize for best essay (Society for Caribbean Studies)
  • 2013Cultural Engagement Fellowship, Oxford University
  • 2009Paul Mellon Centre Research Support Grant
  • 2009Australian Bicentennial Scholarship, Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Kings College London
  • 2006 - 2012Australian Postgraduate Award, University of Sydney
  • 2003Art Association of Australia and New Zealand prize for best large catalogue (for The Encounter, 1802)
  • 2001Australian Government Centenary Medal
  • 1997Sarah & William Holmes Scholarship for the study of prints at the British Museum


Number of items: 10.


Thomas, Sarah (2013) The spectre of empire in the British art museum. Museum History Journal, 6(1), pp. 105-121. ISSN (print) 1936-9816

Thomas, Sarah (2011) "On the Spot": travelling artists and Abolitionism, 1770-1830. Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, 8(2), pp. 213-232. ISSN (print) 1478-8810


Thomas, Sarah (2002) The Encounter, 1802 : art of the Flinders and Baudin voyages. Adelaide, Australia : Art Gallery of South Australia. 228p. ISBN 0730830055

Book Section

Thomas, Sarah (2016) Creating a national identity: Australia's Impressionist landscapes. In: Christopher, Riopelle, (ed.) Australia's Impressionists. London, U.K. : The National Gallery. pp. 43-49. ISBN 9781857096125

Thomas, Sarah (2015) Allegorizing extinction: Humboldt, Darwin and the valedictory image. In: Brauer, Fae, (ed.) Picturing Evolution and Extinction. Newcastle, U.K. : Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 9781443872539

Thomas, Sarah (2014) The artist travels: Augustus Earle at sea. In: Cusack, Tricia, (ed.) Framing the ocean, 1700 to the present: envisaging the sea as social space. Farnham, U.K. : Ashgate. pp. 71-83. ISBN 9781409465683

Thomas, Sarah (2013) Violence and memory: slavery in the museum. In: Rycroft, Daniel J., (ed.) World art and the legacies of colonial violence. Farnham, U.K. : Ashgate. pp. 113-132. ISBN 9781409455882

Thomas, Sarah (2011) Visualising Terra Australis: The Flinders and Baudin Expedition. In: Bunbury, Alisa, (ed.) This wondrous land : colonial art on paper. Melbourne, Australia : Melbourne National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 26-37. ISBN 9780724103447

Thomas, Sarah (2009) The Wanderer, the Slave and the Aboriginal: Augustus Earle in Rio de Janeiro and Sydney in the 1820s. In: Anderson, Jaynie, (ed.) Crossing cultures: conflict, migration and convergence. Carlton, Australia : Miegunyah Press. (The Proceedings of the 32nd International Congress in the History of Art) ISBN 9780522857108

Thomas, Sarah (2009) Slavery, a "Scandal to Christian Nations": Charles Darwin, Augustus Earle and the compass of morality. In: Hoorn, Jeanette, (ed.) Reframing Darwin: evolution and art in Australia. Carlton, Australia : Victoria Miegunyah Press. ISBN 9780522856842

This list was generated on Mon Jun 26 04:32:33 2017 BST.