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Murdo Macdonald

Murdo Macdonald

Professor in the History of Scottish Art

Tel: 01382 345287
Room 5038
Matthew Building, DJCAD
13 Perth Road, Dundee, DD1 4HT


Murdo Macdonald is Professor of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee. His doctoral thesis (University of Edinburgh, 1986) explored the relationships between art and science. He was editor of Edinburgh Review from 1990-1994. He is author of Scottish Art in Thames and Hudson’s World of Art series. His recent research focus has been as principal investigator of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project Window to the West/ Uinneag dhan Àird an Iar: Towards a Redefinition of the Visual within Gaelic Scotland (2005-2011). This is a collaboration between the Visual Research Centre of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College in the Isle of Skye. It explores the inter-relationships of contemporary art, Gaelic language and culture, and art history. A further research interest is in the generalist ideas of the cultural activist and ecologist Patrick Geddes. He is currently engaged in research into art and Robert Burns and art and James Macpherson’s Ossian. In 2013 he identified (with Eric Shanes) at lost ‘Ossian’ work by J. M. W. Turner. In 2014, with the help of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he began to explore I detail the wider cultural significance of photographs of elementary particle tracks made by the Nobel-Prize winning Scottish physicist, C T R Wilson. He was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 2009.

PhD Supervision


1  2014, Eleanor Widger (with Prof Andrew Roberts, English)

2  2010, Geoff Lucas ‘Towards a Concrete Art – a Practice-Led Investigation’ (with Graham Fagen)

3  2010, Courtney Chetwynd ‘Interdisciplinary Studies’ (with Prof Gavin Renwick, Univ. of Edmonton)

4  2006, Tom Andrews ‘Challenging Epistemologies: Managing Intangible Heritage as Associative Archaeological Sites’ (with Prof. Gavin Renwick, Univ. of Edmonton).

5  2007, Edwin Janssen ‘Artists, Museum and Collections: Curating as a component of visual art practice’ (with Prof Gavin Renwick).

6  External supervisor for Eleanor Macdougall ’Heather and hill and Highland cattle’: a re-assessment of images of the Highlands, c. 1850–1940 (University Of The Highlands and Islands - Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, (with Dr Meg Bateman SMO and Gina Wall, Moray College)


  1. 2012: Jonathan Milburn ‘Myth and Meaning in Contemporary Painting: A Practice-led study’ (with Mary Modeen)
  2. 2010: University of Dundee: Paul Harrison, ‘Designs for Life: art, science and collaboration. A practice led study in fine art printmaking’ (with Arthur Watson).
  3. 2008: University of Dundee: Sandra McNeil, ‘From creativity to connective behaviour in the art school: a practice-based analysis of learning through mark-making’ (with Dr Wendy Gunn).
  4. 2006: University of Dundee: Euan McArthur, ‘The Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) and the Development of the Arts Council in Scotland: Background, Politics, Visual Art Policy, 1919-1947’  (with Prof Lindsay Paterson, University of Edinburgh)
  5. 2003: University of Dundee: Gavin Renwick, ‘Spatial Determinism in the Canadian North: A Theoretical Overview and Practice-Based Critique’ (with Arthur Watson).
  6. 2003: University of Dundee: Norman Shaw, ‘Highland Landscape Aesthetics: A Practice-Based Critique’ (with Prof. Will Maclean).
  7. As member of supervisory team 2009: Stefanie Reetz 'Mapping the Estonian nation – national identity and geopolitic sin the Estonian Visual Arts’ (first supervisor Dr Jonathan Blackwood)
  8. 2005, Elizabeth Donald (with Prof Georgina Follett)

Research Projects

  • 2014: Royal Society of Edinburgh, Arts and Humanities Small Grant. “C T R Wilson and the Tracks of Sub-Atomic Particles: An Aesthetic Consideration”
  • 2013: Invited Scientist, Melchiorre Cesarotti Project, University of Padua, Italy.
  • 2013-2014: Member AHRC Northern Peripheries Network (PI Prof Y. Holt, Univ of Northumbria).
  • 2010-2011: Co-investigator with PI : Professor Murray Pittock (University of Glasgow, English Literature) and CI Professor Chris Whatley (University of Dundee, History) of Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909. 2010-2011. AHRC funded £150,000 small grant from Beyond Text, scheme.
  • 2005-2011: Principal Investigator: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project: Window to the West/ Uinneag dhan Àird an Iar:  Towards a redefinition of the visual within Gaelic Scotland. A collaboration between the Visual Research Centre of the University of Dundee and the Gaelic College of the University of the Highlands and Islands - Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Skye. This project places the study and practice of visual art at the heart of a multidisciplinary research project. It creates a new focus for the understanding of Highland culture(Gaidhealtachd). Co-applicants: Professor Norman Gillies and Dr John Purser, Sabhal Mor Ostaig. Award of £543587 over five years.
  • 2002-2005: Principal Investigator, Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) funded project: Learning is Understanding in Practice: exploring the interrelationships between perception, creativity and skill. Co-applicant Professor Tim Ingold, Chair of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen. Award of £243000 over three years.
  • 2001-2002: Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) funded Research Leave to explore Interdisciplinary Internationalism: traditional revival and generalism in the circle of Patrick Geddes: Oct. 2001- Dec. 2002. Award of £11,500.
  • Core group member Designing Environments for Life: A programme of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Strathclyde University, September to December 2009.
  • Member of the Northern Spaces Research Group funded by Northumbria University.

Interview in Textualities

Review in the Scotsman