Catherine Reynolds graduated in history from the University of Oxford and then took her MA in history of art at the Courtauld Institute, London, followed by her PhD with a thesis on fifteenth-century Parisian manuscript illumination. After holding lectureships at the Universities of Reading and then London, she became an independent scholar, teaching and lecturing for various organisations, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, and acting as a consultant on Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts for Christie’s auction house. She has been involved in exhibitions in Leuven, Antwerp, Brussels, Madrid, London and Los Angeles, where she was a visiting scholar at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2003. Her research brings together painting and manuscript illumination of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, chiefly in the Netherlands and France.
Her publications use visual and verbal evidence to try to answer the basic questions of art history – what, when, how, by whom and why – as seen, for example, in papers on a presumed lost work by Van der Weyden (2016), the Turin-Milan Hours (2017) and the Très riches heures du duc de Berry (2005). Visual evidence may lack documentary support: the difficulty of recreating the rôle of individuals from chiefly visual evidence was part of her doctoral research on the workshop of the Master of the Duke of Bedford, as summarised in a publication of 2006. Documentary evidence is crucial for art forms with minimal survival rates, such as independent illuminations and cloth paintings (as explored in 2000), aspects respectively of contributions to the exhibition catalogues Illuminating the Renaissance (2003) and Patinir (2007). These essays also considered how the contemporary verbal evidence should be understood, since the vocabulary, whether Latin or vernacular, may now be unclear: when is a ‘guild’ a ‘trade guild’? what words indicate a landscape? The meanings of words and the existence of concepts, as well as the nature and limitations of the surviving evidence, were central to studies on, for instance, the reputation of Van Eyck (2000), Van der Weyden and the status of painting (2009), the writings of the poet John Lydgate (2007) and court artists as illuminators (2013).
A wide historical context was deployed not only for broader topics like the collapse of England’s artistic confidence in relation to the continent (2003) but also for detailed examinations of individual images in the light of contemporary conventions, for example seeking to recreate the significance for their original viewers of pictures associated with Robert Campin (1996) and miniatures by Loyset Liédet (2018). Her iconographic studies include a survey of illustrated Boccaccio manuscripts in English libraries (1999) and an essay on narrative painting in Brussels, analysing how artists can manipulate their viewers’ responses (2013).
Catherine Reynolds has participated in several projects with Illuminare: in addition to the exhibitions and associated colloquia Rogier van der Weyden, Master of Passions (2009) and The Anjou Bible: Naples 1340, a Royal Manuscript Revealed (2010), she worked with Lieve Watteeuw on the catalogue of the illuminated manuscripts in the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp, and on the exhibition Magnificent Middle Ages that accompanied its publication in 2013.