Interview: Professor Joanna Woodall, or how to be in the world as an academic

Joanna Woodall is a leading expert on Early Modern Netherlandish Art, with a strong commitment to teaching students about methodologies and the theoretical foundations of art history. Joanna read History and Art History at the University of York and The Courtauld Institute, and held research fellowships at the Universities of Cambridge and Leiden during her PhD. She also worked as a curator for three years at Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford before becoming a Lecturer in Netherlandish Art at The Courtauld Institute in 1986, where she completed her PhD. Since her student years, Joanna has tried to be ‘in the world’ as she says, and so she has been. This piece is based on two long discussions with Joanna who, very generously, answered our questions in detail and told us what it has been like for her to be an academic at The Courtauld since the 1980s.

Can you describe your arriving at The Courtauld Institute as a Lecturer in seventeenth-century Netherlandish Art? It seems surprising since during your PhD you focussed more on the sixteenth-century Habsburg court?