Brendan Prendeville

Staff details

Position Senior Lecturer
Department Visual Cultures
Email b.prendeville (
Phone +44 (0)20 7919 7487
Brendan Prendeville

Academic qualifications

1968, BA Fine Art, St. Martin’s School of Art

1970, MA History of Art, London University


At present I teach a third year BA special subject, ‘The Truth in Painting,’ and a first year BA lecture course. ‘Modernities’.

Areas of supervision

I have supervised dissertations on philosophy and the monumental, documentary and social practice, projective space, and interpretations of the image in aesthetics. I would consider proposals on themes and problems concerning painting and phenomenology.

Papers presented

2011       ‘On not preferring blindness: from Michel Henry to Caravaggio’, ‘Bergson Legacies’ conference, Courtauld Institute of Art

2011        ‘A heartfelt gesture: distance, illusion and feeling in seventeenth-century painting’ (on Caravaggio); History of Art Dept., University of St Andrews.

2010        ‘A heartfelt gesture: illusion, separation and feeling in baroque realism’; Early Modern research seminar, UCL

2009       ‘A heartfelt gesture: distance, deception and sincerity in seventeenth - century painting’; Dept. History of Art, University of Warwick

2008        ‘Horizons: Painting as practical phenomenology’; Fifth Central and Eastern European Conference on Phenomenology, ‘Corporeity and Affectivity’, Prague.   

2006         ‘Act and Object’, in Merleau-Ponty session of CAA conference, Boston.

2004        ‘Discernment’, IAPL conference, ‘Writing Aesthetics’, Leeds.

2003        ‘Varying the self: Bacon’s variations on van Gogh’,  IAPL ‘Intermedialities’ conference, Rotterdam.

1996        ‘“The Great White South”: the Antarctic photographs of Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley’, given at ‘Landscape and Myth’ conference, European Cultural Centre of Delphi.

1992        ‘Unseeing eyes’ (on Géricault), given at the Art Historians’ Association Conference, Leeds.

Research Interests

My general research interests concern phenomenology, Bergsonian philosophy, and themes of embodiment and selfhood, as these bear on painting in particular and on visual culture in general. I approach philosophy as a historian rather than a philosopher, which for me entails situating both philosophical concepts and artistic practices historically, in relation to shared concerns or common points of reference. I have written on art of periods ranging between the seventeenth century and the present, with a recurrent emphasis on realism.  Merleau-Ponty has been central to my research, not only due to his preoccupation with painting, but also because of a (historical) question arising from that: to the extent that the philosopher is justified in seeing the work of certain painters (Cézanne and Klee in particular) as enacting his themes in practice, how should this come to be so, and on what basis might his ideas hold for other painters, or for painting in general? I am researching a book concerning the tacit (but not fortuitous or narrowly personal) basis on which paintings may come to have meaning imparted to them by painters and (independently) by viewers, across time. Latterly I have become interested in the radical phenomenology of Michel Henry. I have a parallel research interest in the cinema of Robert Bresson.



Prendeville, Brendan. 2015. Realism in 20th Century Painting (Mandarin edition). Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-7-5322-9195-3

Prendeville, Brendan. 2001. El Realismo en la Pintura del Siglo XX. Barcelona: Ediciones Destino/ Thames&Hudson. ISBN 84-233-3292-6

Prendeville, Brendan. 2001. La peinture réaliste au XXe siècle. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-2878111927

Prendeville, Brendan. 2000. Realism in 20th Century Painting. Thames and Hudson Ltd. ISBN 978-0500203361

Book Section

Prendeville, Brendan. 2018. ‘Democratic light: phenomenology and the worldliness of painting’. In: Malcolm Baker and Andrew Hemingway, eds. Art as Worldmaking: Critical essays on Realism and Naturalism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 165-180. ISBN 9781526114907

Prendeville, Brendan. 2017. Competing futures, precarious community: realism in post-war Britain. In: Andrew Hemingway and Alex Potts, eds. Kunst und Politik 19: Realism in Modern British and American Art. 19 Göttingen: V & R Unipress, pp. 59-71. ISBN 9783847108153

Prendeville, Brendan. 2013. Painting the Invisible: time, matter and the image in Bergson and Michel Henry. In: John Mullarkey and Charlotte de Mille, eds. Bergson and the Art of Immanence. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 189-205. ISBN 978-1474404730

Prendeville, Brendan. 2010. Catalogue essay. In: , ed. Another Country: London painters in dialogue with Italian art. London: Lubrina-Leb. ISBN 978-8877664068

Prendeville, Brendan. 2009. Seurat and the act of sensing: perception as artefact. In: Paul Smith, ed. Seurat re-viewed. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, pp. 149-162. ISBN 978-0-271-03545-1

Prendeville, Brendan. 2006. Merleau-Ponty, Realism and Painting: Psychophysical Space and the Space of Exchange. In: Ted Toadvine, ed. Merleau-Ponty: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers, vol. 2: Perception and Expression. Routledge, pp. 300-329. ISBN 9780415363990

Prendeville, Brendan. 2004. Seurat and the Act of Sensing: Perception as Artefact. In: T. Fischer-Seidel; S. Peters and A. Potts, eds. Perception and the Senses / Sinneswahrnehmung. A. Francke Verlag, pp. 165-187. ISBN 3772080405

Prendeville, Brendan. 2003. ‘Night Geography’. In: Michael Harrison, ed. Ian Wiblin: Night Watch. Cambridge: Kettle’s Yard, pp. 8-28. ISBN 978-0907074540

Prendeville, Brendan. 2002. ‘Measure and Location’. In: Michael Harrison, ed. A Measure of Reality. Cambridge: Kettle’s Yard.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1996. South. In: John Stathatos, ed. Myth and Landscape. Delphi, pp. 62-65.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1988. ‘Infant Joy’. In: , ed. Taking Root. London: Artsite Gallery.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1984. ‘How sculpture became human’. In: , ed. Flesh and Stone. London: Arts Council, pp. 48-55.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1984. ‘Motion and rest: the sculptor’s search for order’. In: , ed. Sculpture’s Dance. London: Arts Council, pp. 48-55.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1984. ‘The place of sculpture’. In: , ed. Mind over Matter. London: Arts Council, pp. 44-54.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1981. ‘Constructed Sculpture’. In: Sandy Nairne and Nicholas Serota, eds. British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century. London: Whitechapel Gallery, pp. 209-221. ISBN 978-0854880546


Prendeville, Brendan. 2015. Sam Cornish, Stockwell Depot, 1967-79. Sculpture Journal, 24(3), ISSN 1366-2724

Prendeville, Brendan. 2015. Sculpting with air. Ambit, 220, pp. 46-53. ISSN 0002-6972

Prendeville, Brendan. 2014. That uncertain object: David Sylvester’s conception of criticism as a personal affair. Tate Papers, 21, ISSN 1753-9854

Prendeville, Brendan. 2013. A Heartfelt Gesture: Separation and Feeling, Darkness and Illusion in Caravaggio. Oxford Art Journal, 36(2), pp. 185-206. ISSN 0142-6540

Prendeville, Brendan. 2012. 'The Angel's Ear and She Is Love: New Sculpture by Charles Hewlings'. Exhibition catalogue, The Cut Art Centre,

Prendeville, Brendan. 2011. Art as phenomenology? Philosophy of Photography, 2(1), pp. 159-61. ISSN 2040-3682

Prendeville, Brendan. 2009. Contested Bodies’ (book review). Art History, 32(1), pp. 216-219. ISSN 0141-6790

Prendeville, Brendan. 2009. ‘The essence of vision: recent paintings by Gina Medcalf’. exhibition catalogue, The Cut Art Centre,

Prendeville, Brendan. 2007. The Meanings of Acts: Agnes Martin and the Making of Americans. Oxford Art Journal, 31(1), pp. 51-73. ISSN 0142-6540

Prendeville, Brendan. 2005. Discernment. Oxford Art Journal, 28(1), pp. 213-226. ISSN 01426540

Prendeville, Brendan. 2004. Varying the Self: Bacon's Versions of van Gogh. Oxford Art Journal, 27(1), pp. 23-42. ISSN 01426540

Prendeville, Brendan. 2001. Uncertain Light. M’ARS, Ljubljana, Year XIII, XIII(1-2), pp. 46-51.

Prendeville, Brendan. 1999. Merleau-Ponty, Realism and Painting: Psychophysical Space and the Space of Exchange. Art History, 22(3), pp. 364-388. ISSN 0141-6790

Prendeville, Brendan. 1995. ‘The Features of Insanity, as seen by Géricault and by Büchner’. Oxford Art Journal, 18(1), pp. 96-115. ISSN 0142-6540

Exhibition Catalogue

Prendeville, Brendan. 1991. Like the Face of the Moon.