Meet the Warburg: Thalia Allington-Wood, Lecturer in Renaissance and Early Modern Art History
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 chatted with our Lecturer in Renaissance and Early Modern Art History, Thalia Allington-Wood. Read on to discover more about her career, what prospective students can expect from the Warburg's postgraduate programmes and what Thalia loves most about the Warburg.
Please could you tell us a bit about your background and career?
My career so far includes a mix of work across academia and for museums and galleries. My first degree was in English Literature at the University of Manchester, followed by a masters in Art History at UCL. It was at this point that I first encountered the Warburg Institute. I then worked in education, curation and research for institutions including the Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, before deciding to focus my energies on academia. I completed a PhD in Art History at UCL in 2019 on the Sacro Bosco at Bomarzo: an amazing sixteenth-century sculptural site filled with monsters and marvels carved out of volcanic rock. During my studies, I held fellowships at UCLA and Dumbarton Oaks of Harvard University. I then went on to lecture at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, UCL and Oxford Brookes before joining the Warburg Institute in 2021.
What led you to working at the Warburg Institute?
The library at the Warburg Institute has been my favourite thinking-space ever since my MA. It provided both the space and intellectual stimulus that carried me through the most challenging months of my doctorate. (I know the same is true for many other scholars). So, the Warburg felt like an academic home, a haven even, long before I joined as a member of staff.
The role of Lecturer in History of Art 1300-1700 also involves convening the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, offered by the Institute in partnership with the National Gallery. This programme relates directly to both my specialisms: Renaissance art history and professional museum work – it is wonderful to be able to bring those different aspects of my experience together.
How has your first 6 months been working at the Warburg? Do you have a particular favourite moment so far?
Rather than one particular moment, the best moments of my week are invariably the dynamic discussions we have in our seminars. It is a joy and a privilege to teach students from such a variety of subjects and academic backgrounds, and I am continuously impressed by the knowledge and range of perspectives of our students. Aside from that, very little can beat being actually face to face with artworks for group discussion and close analysis. We take multiple field trips as part of my term 2 special option, ‘Renaissance Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, hunting-out rare fifteenth-century tombs that survived the Great Fire and making the most of London’s excellent collections. It is also fantastic to spend time behind-the-scenes in the National Gallery as part of the core curating module, visiting the conservation studio was a real highlight.
What's one thing you've learnt about the Warburg that you didn't know before you joined?
I was somehow completely oblivious to the fact that the Warburg held the archive of the cookery writer Elizabeth David. I have been fascinated to learn more about her work and collection of rare books through the research of current Warburg Associate Fellow Thomas Marks. I love that food writing comes under the Warburg’s wide ranging and interdisciplinary remit. It has also led to some delightfully unexpected connections to the sculpture module mentioned above, as we study Renaissance sculptures made of food, and the elaborate tableware used for banquets and festivities.
What would you say to prospective students considering the Warburg’s postgraduate programmes?
If you are curious and have an open mind, then the Warburg and its library will offer you a happy academic home. Our priority is to help you develop your own interests across disciplines and to become an independent-minded scholar – be that for a future in academia, museums or elsewhere. My time here so far has made it clear that staff at the Warburg are as passionate about teaching and working with students as they are about their own research. It is a supportive, generous environment in which to study.
What do you love most about the Warburg?
Every time I go to find a particular book in the library, I leave with at least five others that I either hadn’t thought or heard of or wasn’t expecting to read. The law of the good neighbour is a wonderful cataloguing system: chance discovery repeatedly presenting itself.
With the Warburg Renaissance building project coming up what are you looking forward to about the new design?
That it will extend the opportunity to discover the wonders of our library and collections to many more people and widen our audience through new events and display spaces.