Professor Elizabeth Anne Rankin

BA(Hons), PhD, HDipLib (Witwatersrand)

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Professor » Art History

Organisational units


  • Professor of Art History,
  • Art History Undergaduate Adviser


Elizabeth Rankin began teaching in the 1960s while studying for her first postgraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, initially as a Graduate Assistant, then a Junior Lecturer. She was to pursue motherhood and research concurrently with her lecturing, with two sons born in 1968 and 1970 and a PhD awarded in 1978. The first doctoral degree in Art History at that university, her thesis was a study of the development of knowledge and taste in the rediscovery of Greece, entitled "Englishmen on the Acropolis: an historiography of the Parthenon, c. 1750-1850".

In 1982 she was appointed to the new Chair of the History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. She became increasingly involved in the development of her discipline in South Africa, shifting her research interests to cross-cultural developments and the retrieval of lost histories in South African art, not only in publications but also in the curating of exhibitions. She was elected to the Chair of the newly established South African Association of Art Historians in 1985.

In 1990 her Faculty elected her as the first woman Dean of Arts for a challenging three-year term at a time of transition in South Africa. The many committees she served on at that time included the Minister of Education’s Advisory Council on Universities and Technikons. In 1998 she took up the Professorship of Art History at The University of Auckland.

Research | Current

  • The representation of culture in museum practice, cross-cultural exchanges in South African art, printmaking.


Elizabeth Rankin has recently completed with co-researcher Philippa Hobbs, a book on South African artist Peter Clarke, who has achieved a life-long career as a painter, printmaker and writer, despite being denied art training and forced from his home because of apartheid policies.  The book was launched at a large scale retrospective exhibition in Johannesburg in May 2011 and subsequently at Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town in October 2011. She is also writing papers on printmakers: an exhibition with accompanying catalogue,Collateral: Printmaking as Social Commentary opened at Auckland University's Gus Fisher Gallery on 1 July 2011 and includes the work of New Zealanders Michael Reed and Sandra Thomson, American Daniel Heyman and South African Diane Victor. Another recent catalogue essay addresses the work Titokowaru's Dilemma by Marian Maguire.  In June 2011, Fiona Pardington: The Pressure of Sunlight Falling with co-editor Kriselle Baker, was published by Otago Press.

Professor Elizabeth Rankin's Research


Teaching | Current

Department: Department of Art History


Art History
Course Title Availability in 2012
ARTHIST 106 Images and Ideas: Art since Antiquity Semester 1
ARTHIST 330 Special Topic: Art Writing and Methodology Semester 2
ARTHIST 715 Special Topic: Museums and Politics of Culture Availability to be advised
ARTHIST 721 A B Museums and the Politics of Culture Semester 1 and 2 (full year)


Postgraduate supervision


PhD students

Kriselle Baker: Ralph Hotere 1968-1977: A Decade of Black and Light (completed 2009)

Celia Walker: Tracking Heaphy: Travels in the New Zealand Landscape (completed 2009)

Mary Barker: Marian iconography in Rembrandt, second supervisor (completed 2010)

Ian Cooke: American exhibitions in New Zealand (commenced 2011)

Natalie Bell: The Other Woman: Non-Marriage Portraits of Women in Renaissance Italy  second supervisor (commenced 2009)

Kathryn Higgins: Pacific Island residencies. second supervisor (commenced 2009)


Professor Elizabeth Rankin's Postgraduate Supervision

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Hobbs, P., & Rankin, E. (2013). Word and image in dialogue: Peter Clarke’s collages and Fan series. Image and Text, 21, 6-28.
  • Rankin, E. (2013). Creating/Curating Cultural Capital: Monuments and Museums for Post-Apartheid South Africa. Humanities, 2 (1), 72-98. 10.3390/h2010072
  • Rankin, E. (2011). Negotiating narrative interstices: the lithographs and etchings of Marian Maguire. IMPACT 7: Intersections and Counterpoints: Proceedings of the Impact 7 international multi-disciplinary conference, 428-433. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing.
  • Rankin, E. (2011). ‘Lonely Road: Formative episodes in the development of black artists in early twentieth-century South Africa’. In G. Jantjes, M. Pissarra, J. Carman (Eds.) Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907-2007 (pp. 92-113). Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
  • Rankin, E., & Baker, K. (Eds.) (2011). Fiona Pardington: the pressure of sunlight falling. Dunedin: Otago University Press. Pages: 159.
  • Hobbs, P., & Rankin, E. (2011). Listening to distant thunder: the art of Peter Clarke. Johannesburg: Standard Bank.
  • Rankin, E. (2011). Human rights and human wrongs: public perceptions of Diane Victor's 'Disasters of Peace'. South African Journal of Art History, 26 (1), 85-95.
  • Rankin, E. (2011). Creating communities: art centres and workshops and their influence on the South African art scene. In G. Jantjes, M. Pissarra, L. Von Robbroeck (Eds.) Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907-2007 (pp. 52-77). Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Contact details

  • Media Contact

Primary location

Level 5, Room 207-508
Auckland 1010
New Zealand