Faculty of Arts - Art History

Associate Professor Leonard Bell

BA , PhD (Auck) , PGDip Art History (Dist) (Edin)

Associate Professor in Art History,
Postgraduate Adviser Art History

Associate Professor Leonard Bell

Art History, Humanities

Email: l.bell@auckland.ac.nz

Extension: 87261 (ph + 64 9 373 7599)

Arts 2
18 Symonds St
Level 5
Room 510

Research interests

Cross-cultural interactions and the creation of visual images and objects in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific from the mid 18th century to the present; the work and careers of émigré, refugee, migrant and travelling artists, photographers, architects and art writers from the 19th century to the present.

Current research

Associate-Professor Bell has taught at the University since 1973. He is currently writing a book on the work and impacts in New Zealand of artists, photographers, architects and others involved in visual culture, who came to this country either as refugees from Nazism or as Displaced People after World War II. In counterpoint this book will also address the work and careers of expatriate artists, who left New Zealand for Britain and Europe in the mid 20th century. Another current project is a study of how European artists, writers and designers, both in New Zealand and Europe represented and deployed aspects or elements of Maori arts in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

His MA/BA Hons course, ARTHIST 703, focuses on cross-cultural interactions and creativity in all visual media from the 18th century to the 21st century, primarily in New Zealand and the Pacific (including Australia), though also in relation to North Africa and the Middle East, the Americas, and Asia, in particular India, China and Japan. It explores both past and modern & contemporary art and visual culture.

At Stage 2/3 level in 2013 he will be teaching Crisis and Change: Mid 19th Century Art in France and Britain (ARTHIST 202/302), and at Stage 1 level Shock of the Modern: Monet to Warhol (ARTHIST 109).

Postgraduate supervision

Completed PhD theses:

Genaro Oliveira, 'From Stone to Silicon: image editing and web design as a resource for historical narratives in the visual arts, 2012.

Ngarino Ellis, 'A Whakapapa of Tradition: Iwirakau carving 1830-1930', 2012.

Lyn Savill, 'Empiricism, Enlightenment and Aesthetics: engravings from the Endeavour voyage [of Captain Cook], 1768-1771', 2011.

Campbell Ewing, 'Watchful Listenings: media transpositions in Edouard Manet's paintings and prints of 1862', 2011.

Leon Tan, 'Assemblage Theory: becoming-mixed-reality', 2010.

Caroline Vercoe, 'Disturbing Practices: exploring issues of race and gender in American performance art', 2008.

Deborah Cain, 'Semiotics of Self: reflections on the work of Louise Bourgeois', 2006.

Edward Hanfling, 'Great Scott: issues of art historical value from the works of recent New Zealand artists, especially from those of Ian Scott', 2004.


Current PhD theses:

Ian Cooke, 'Exhibitions of Modern American Art in New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s'.

Kyla Mackenzie, '"New Zealandness, the Modern and the Foreign in the Art of John Weeks.

Linda Tyler, 'Art and Science in the Work of New Zealand Illustrator, John Buchanan (1819-1881'.


Completed MA Theses:

Harry Rodel, Vaterland/Ackerland: Jorg Immendorf's Readymade de l'histoire dans Cafe Flor (1987), 2010.

Ursula Taylor, 'Art/Document: photographing political violence: representation and response in the work of Sebastiao Salgado, James Nachtwey, Fazal Sheikh and Alfredo Jaar', 2010.

Helen Bell, 'Halcyon Days: Photography and the nostalgic revisions of Ben Cauchi, Shigeyuki Kihara and Peter Madden', 2010.

Kyla Mackenzie, 'Richard McWhannell, life, death, the universe and all that', 2009.

Scott Navicky, 'Slavery and the Single Perspective: Nietzsche's perspectivism, propaganda and the photographic plague', 2007.

Anthe Crawley, 'Max Beckman's Illustrations for Faust II', 2006.

Esther Rosser, 'Seeing Pakeha: Identifying and Defining Pakeha Art', 2005.

Livia Vidicki, 'History, Myth, Nation, the Slavs: a life-long theme in the art of Alphonse Mucha, 2004.

Campbell Ewing, 'The Maori Art of Kowhaiwhai in Perspective', 2003.


Current MA Theses:

Margaret Chalk, 'The representation of African-Americans on US Postage Stamps'.

Topics of BA Hons dissertations that I have supervised since 2008 include:

The French composer Erik Satie and Cubism.

Orientalism and the painting of John Singer Sargent.

Laurence Aberhardt's photographs of Maori churches and halls in Northland.

Contemporary art photographers, such as Jeff Wall and Geoffrey Crewdson, and mid 19th century French and British painting.

The recent work of expatriate New Zealand artist, Francis Upritchard.

The Orientalist paintings of Etienne Dinet.

The recent work of contemporary Colombian artist, Oscar Munoz.

Alfredo Jaar's Rwanda Project in the 1990s.

American artist James Luna's 'Urban (almost) rituals, as performed in Wellington.

Recent publications

‘Not quite Darwin’s artist: the travel art of Augustus Earle’, Journal of Historical Geography, 43, 2014, pp. 60-70.

Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History, Random House, Auckland, 2012 (co-editor, with Diana Morrow).

From Prague to Auckland: the Photography of Frank Hofmann (1916-1989), Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, 2011.

'Strange Attractors: Augustus Earle and Charles Darwin in New Zealand', Journal of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand, Vol. 11, 2010, pp. 79-96.

Marti Friedlander, Auckland, Auckland University Press, 2009.

In Transit: Questions of Home and Belonging in New Zealand Art, Wellington, Victoria University Press, 2007.

"Looking outwards; looking inwards: threshold spaces in the work of two migrant Central European photographers in New Zealand in the mid twentieth century", Journal of New Zealand Art History, 30, 2009.

"Surveying Peryerland: Peter Peryer Photographer, with essays by Peter Simpson and Perter Peryer", Art New Zealand, (103), p 66-68, 2009.

"The Third Richard: a film by Danny Mulheron and Sarah Stretton", Review in New Zealand Jewish Chronicle, 65, p 13-13, 2009.

"The Contributions of Jewish Individuals in New Zealand: 1840s to the Present", in Avrum Ehrlich (ed.), The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora, Santa Barbara, CA, ABC-CLIO Inc., p 1-3, 2008.

"Fractured Families: John Davis’s photo-portraits of Robert Louis Stevenson and 'family' in  Samoa", in Art and the British Empire, Eds., Tim Barringer, Geoff Quilley & Douglas Fordham, Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, pp 309-26, 2007.

"Is Art History Global?: reflections from another place", in Is Art History Global, Ed. Jamers Elkins, London, Routledge, pp 376-7, 2007.

"Shadows and Light", in Marti Friedlander: Shadows and Light, Auckland, FhE Galleries, pp 4-14, 2007.

Associate Professor Leonard Bell's Publications

Career history

Leonard (or Len) Bell is a highly-regarded scholar both nationally and internationally. His writings (see below) on cross-cultural interactions and representations in all visual media, and on the works and careers of travelling, migrant, expatriate and refugee artists, photographers  and architects have been published in books and periodicals in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, the USA, Germany and the Czech Republic .

His researches into cross-cultural interactions and representations in the Pacific (including New Zealand and Australia) are ongoing. This work includes exploration of the relationships between displacement and creativity, the nature and complexities of boundaries and the negotiations of socio-cultural and mental, as well as physical and architectural spaces, as articulated in visual images and objects.

Leonard Bell has had research fellowships at the National Gallery of American Art, Washington DC and at the Yale Center for British Art. He was the Daphne Mayo Visiting Professor, School of Art History, Film and Media Studies, University of Queensland in 2005.

He is on the International Advisory Board of Art History [Journal of the Association of Art Historians], and on the Editorial Advisorial Committees of the Journal of New Zealand Art History, the Journal of New Zealand Studies, and Reading Room [Auckland Art Gallery].

He has co-organised the following conferences in recent years:

  • "Displacement and Creativity: Refugees and the Arts in New Zealand", The University of Auckland, with an accompanying exhibition at the Gus Fisher Gallery, September 2001
  • "Worlds Apart: Forced Migration and Cultural Impacts in Britain and New Zealand", The University of Auckland, November 2002; an interdisciplinary conference.
  • Art Association of Australia and New Zealand annual conference, "Present Pasts: Present Futures", The University of Auckland, December 2004.

Current teaching

Art History
Course Title Availability in 2014
ARTHIST 109 Shock of the Modern: Monet to Warhol Semester 1
ARTHIST 202 Crisis and Change: Mid 19th Century Art in France and Britain Not offered in 2014.
ARTHIST 214 Art and New Zealand: Pasts and Presents Semester 1
ARTHIST 302 Crisis and Change: Mid 19th Century Art in France and Britain Not offered in 2014.
ARTHIST 314 Art and New Zealand: Pasts and Presents Semester 1
ARTHIST 703 A B Cross-Cultural Encounters and Creativity Semester 1 and 2 (full year)
ARTHIST 733 Special Topic Not offered in 2014.

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