Three women in an elegant Parisian artists studio

Shaping Modernity?: (Semi)-private Exterior Spaces and the Arts in Late-19th Belgian and Interacting Sites of Creative Exchange

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2024

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2024

For further details contact: Professor Juliet Simpson 


This PhD project explores the artistic networks, imaginaries and projections of (semi-) private interior and exterior spaces in late nineteenth-century Belgian, and in its interacting contexts of artistic production and creative exchange between 1860s-1910s.

Project details

Focusing on these spaces and their functions as sites of creation, self-fashioning, new gender identities and sociality, this study’s key aim is to shed light on why and how the interconnectedness of such spaces made them multifaceted cultural loci for new projections of modernity. Considering the relevance and distinctiveness of the Belgian contexts, this PhD will examine the creation of semi-private exterior spaces, their uses by artists, and their broader significance, including beyond Belgium, as sites of cultural memory and identity-construction.

Focusing on the semi-private artistic sphere – studios, salons and the domestic space – the study will open perspectives on their artistic, material and geo-cultural ecologies as pivotal arenas of artistic innovation and exchange. These were also to loosen perceived boundaries of interior and exterior to shape new sites of modernity, gender and the artistic ‘self’. Indeed, a key ambition of this PhD, is to illuminate such spaces as potent loci for ideas of personal growth, self-expression, redefined constructs of ‘masculinity’, ‘femininity’, and of cultural agency.

This PhD studentship is offered in partnership with KU Leuven. It is expected that the successful applicant will spend 12 months in Belgium.


This is a fully-funded studentship, including tuition fees and stipend/bursary.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS academic overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

Additional specifications

Advanced proficiency in French language skills (reading); intermediate proficiency in French language skills (written and spoken)

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact: Professor Juliet Simpson

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

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