Professor Stephen Farthing

Profile image of Rootstein Hopkins University Chair of Drawing

Rootstein Hopkins University Chair of Drawing

Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon


Professor Stephen Farthing is the Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Drawing at University of the Arts London, a Royal Academician where he is Honorary Curator of the Collections and an Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. He studied at Central Saint Martins (then St Martins School of Fine Art) and the Royal College of Art.

From 1990–2000 he was the Ruskin Master of Drawing at the University of Oxford; from 2000–04 he was director of the New York Academy of Art.

In addition to his activities as an artist he is currently writing Living Color for Yale University Press with David Kastan and researching Leonardo: The Corpus with Professor Michael Farthing MD.

Farthing is involved with a number of research projects with institutions, which include the Royal Academy of Arts in London, University of Tasmania College of the Arts and in the USA, Yale University.

Research interests

Drawing and painting, taxonomy of drawing, archival resources, drawing, writing and the spoken word and the drawings made after first contact by preliterate societies.

Research statement

All Farthing’s academic research is geared towards establishing firstly a  robust definition and taxonomy of drawing, then a more complete understanding of drawing as an aspect of general literacy, and finally effective ways of teaching drawing today.


Most of Farthing’s research is collections and archive- originated. For the most part, this involves visiting collections then trying to make sense of what he sees. The 'making sense' is usually achieved by a mix of drawing and writing. Currently, he is focusing on two primary areas;  Native American drawing and the drawings made after first contact by preliterate societies.

At a more physical level, he has started working with Fulham FC exploring links between sports skills and drawing skill acquisition.

In two projects developed with the British Museum and Tate Gallery, London, Farthing has used historical drawing collections as a means of assessing the value of redrawing fine examples as a means of developing participants’ drawing skills. All projects are based on a process of working with professional artists, students and school-children in qualitative assessment studies.

Finally, there is no strong separation between Farthing’s activities as a painter and his research as a Professor of Drawing; one feeds the other, archival work on drawing informs his painting just as practical research projects in drawing serve to inform his painting.


Current students and thesis titles

Georgina Amos, Thinking through Enactive Painting.

Completed students and thesis titles

Maryclare Foa, Sounding Out: Performance Drawing in Response to the Outside Environment.

Simon Grennan, Comic Strips and the making of meaning: emotion, intersubjectivity and narrative drawing.

Donal Maloney, Slippages between the picture plane and the painting surface. An analysis, through my paintings, of specular highlights, proximal spaces and the Lacanian gaze.

Selected research outputs