Meet the Warburg: Caspar Pearson, Director of Studies
In this blog series, we introduce you to the people who bring the Warburg to life. From library staff to lecturers, find out more about the people working at the Warburg Institute.
In this interview, we caught up with our Director of Studies, Caspar Pearson. Read on to discover more about his career, what prospective students can expect from the Warburg's postgraduate programmes and what Caspar is looking forward to most with the Warburg Renaissance project.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and career?
My first degree was in Philosophy and Art History at the University of Birmingham, and I also stayed there to complete a master’s in Art History. After that, I went to the University of Essex, which at the time was renowned for its theoretical and philosophical approach at art history, where I wrote my PhD thesis on architecture and urbanism in the works of Leon Battista Alberti. Following that, I lived in Rome for about six years, first as a postdoctoral research fellow and then as a member of adjunct faculty the American University of Rome and other universities. In 2008 I returned to Essex as a lecturer in Art History and Theory and I moved to the Warburg in 2020. Essentially, my interests can still be described by the title of my first degree: philosophy and art history.
What led you to working at the Warburg Institute?
As soon as the job was advertised, I wanted to apply. Like so many in our field, I used the Warburg Library extensively as a PhD student and very frequently in subsequent years. It is the centre of the tradition of scholarship that I am most interested in.
How has your first year been working at the Warburg? Do you have a particular favourite moment?
I have really enjoyed my first year at the Warburg Institute. Undoubtedly, it was a strange time to start a job, with the global pandemic in full force and almost every activity taking place online. Even under these conditions, however, I have been struck by the vitality of the scholarly community. There is an extraordinary range of well-attended events and activities taking place every week. The Warburg students are excellent — really committed to their studies and full of new and interesting ideas. I think my favourite moment was a group visit to the National Gallery outside of opening hours in June. After so much time spent online it was great to see the students in person!
Could you tell us a bit more about your new role as Director of Studies?
As Director of Studies, I am responsible for the organisation and management of the teaching programmes at the Institute. That means that I oversee our MA courses and our postgraduate certificates. I work with other members of the teaching staff to make sure that things run as smoothly as possible, and I liaise with students to make sure that their needs are being met.
The programmes at the Warburg really are excellent. All of them are very demanding. The MAs require the study of a language and palaeography, in addition to the core and optional modules. It’s a lot to take on but it is worth it. The skills that students learn allow them to engage with primary source materials first-hand, preparing them to undertake original research. We run the Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture MA in collaboration with our partners at the National Gallery, so students can learn directly from experts and museum professionals about the ins and outs of curating Renaissance art. The Warburg Institute provides a wonderful environment in which to undertake interdisciplinary studies. There is a very lively community of scholars, and of course there is the library, which is an extraordinary, unique resource.
What do you love most about the Warburg?
First and foremost, the opportunity to teach interesting, creative and engaged students who are really committed to studying Renaissance art and culture. Secondly, the library. With its open stacks and its incredible collection, as well as its unique system of classification, it is unlike anything else in the world.
With the Warburg Renaissance building project coming up what are you looking forward to about the new design?
I am very excited about the Warburg Renaissance project. One of the best things is that it will open up the Institute even further than it is at present and help to facilitate still more public engagement. The building plans include an exhibition space as well as a dedicated new room for the archive, both of which I think will be extensively used and visited. There will also be a new, state-of-the-art lecture theatre to house some of the Warburg’s many events. It is clear to me that there is a great deal of appetite and interest among the public for the kinds of things that the Warburg does. One need only consider the large numbers that have attended online events during the past year. The Warburg Renaissance will allow us to engage further with the public, and to do so in a very stylish and comfortable environment.