Ralph Body

Ralph Body

School of Humanities

Faculty of Arts


I am a researcher, writer and occasional curator. My area of particular interest is nineteenth and twentieth-century art, especially that of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Germany. I have also written extensively on contemporary art in my capacity as a reviewer. I wish to utilise my skills and knowledge to help others enrich their understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts. I am currently seeking opportunities to work, publish or collaborate in the museums, heritage, higher education or community arts sectors.

My area of particular interest is nineteenth and twentieth-century art, especially that of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Germany. I have also written extensively on contemporary art in my capacity as a reviewer. My research interests include: cross-currents in Australian and New Zealand art; regional and transnational modernisms; the social functions of art; the rhetoric of art criticism; the character and influence of art magazines; artists' letters; histories of collecting; art of the fin de siècle, Edwardian and interwar periods; émigré and expatriate artists; art and visual culture in Weimar Germany; art historical appropriation in modern and contemporary art; queer portraiture; and the urban and suburban in art.

I have recently completed a PhD in Art History, investigating the significant role played by the art world networks of the South Australian artist Hans Heysen (1877-1968) in establishing, shaping and maintaining his career and reputation. These encompassed fellow artists, art critics, publishers, dealers, collectors and museum trustees and directors. Due to Heysen’s geographical isolation written correspondence played an essential role in his long-distance career management and his letters provide valuable insights into the importance of his networks. The theoretical writing of Howard Becker and Pierre Bourdieu informed an analysis of this correspondence and other archival sources. By examining the changing manner in which Heysen's art was displayed, assessed, promoted and sold, this research presented new insights into the importance of his networks in managing his interests, responding to broader shifts in the Australian art world and helping him achieve critical and commercial success.

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  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2013 Body, R. M. (2013). Of Uncertain Genus: Resituating John Buchanan. Art New Zealand, (145).
    2009 Body, R. M. (2009). The Doyen of Dunedin Art: Alfred Henry O’Keeffe’s Late Works. The Journal of New Zealand Art History, 30, 17-36.
    2008 Body, R. M. (2008). Review: Donald Bassett, Fix: The Art and Life of Felix Kelly. The Journal of New Zealand Art History, 29, 101-102.
    2007 Body, R. M. (2007). Lightweight? – Review. Scope: Contemporary Research Topics: Art, (2), 134-135.
  • Book Chapters

    Year Citation
    2007 Body, R. M. (2007). Shifting Skins. In L. Plummer (Ed.), Modulations: Cantata Re Configured: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5: a multimedia installation series by Lyn Plummer. Dunedin: L. Plummer and R. Browne.
  • Conference Items

    Year Citation
    2016 Body, R. M., & Spiers, O. (2016). Bookended: The first and last twenty years of Australian art magazines. Poster session presented at the meeting of The Work of Art - Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference. School of Art, Australian National University, Canberra.
    2015 Body, R. M. (2015). Distant vistas, urban art worlds: the role of Hans Heysen’s networks in establishing his reputation (c.1904-­1914). Poster session presented at the meeting of Image, Space, Body - Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference. Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art and the State Library of Queensland, Brisbane.
  • Curated or Produced Public Exhibition or Events

    Year Citation
    2012 Body, R. M. (2012). A. H. O'Keeffe: Light in the Shadows (No. Of Pieces: Exhibition of two months duration.) [Exhibition]. Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
  • Theses

    Year Citation
    2019 Body, R. M. (2019). Behind the Scenes: Hans Heysen's Art World Networks. (PhD Thesis, University of Adelaide).
    2008 Body, R. M. (2008). Alfred Henry O'Keeffe in Retrospect: Paint and Personality: a thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Arts in Art History and Theory at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. (Master's Thesis, University of Otago).

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