Professor Smith came to Warwick in 2005. Before that he was professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol; and he has been a visiting professor at UC Berkeley, a visiting scholar and a scholar at the Getty Research Institute, and a summer fellow at the Clark Institute. Paul studied for his PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art under the supervision of Robert Ratcliffe, the eminent but obscure Cezanne scholar. Before that, he took his undergraduate degree at University College London, where he was taught aesthetics by the philosopher, Richard Wollheim. Both have had a lasting influence on his research.
Paul works mostly on later nineteenth-century French painting, and the literature of the period. Particular interests include Baudelaire, Manet, Impressionism, Seurat, Cezanne, and stories and novels about art. He is also interested in how Adrian Stokes's and Richard Wollheim's aesthetic theories, phenomenology, Wittgenstein's thinking, and neuroscience can illuminate pictures. The central focus of this recent work is colour and colour theory.
He welcomes applications from those interested in researching C19th French art and art theory, and colour and colour theory. In the past he has supervised PhDs on Baudelaire, Barnett Newman, visual poetry, and Cezanne (all AHRC funded); and he is presently supervising one PhD on Georges Petit, and another on colour and light in recent art.
In autumn 2021 he will take up a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, to pursue a project - Unfolding Vision: Cezanne’s ‘way of seeing’ - which will draw on recent discoveries in psychology to investigate how the artist's slow and sustained mode of looking was responsible for the so-called distortions formalist critics saw in his work.
- Painting, Science, and the Perception of Coloured Shadows: 'The Most Beautiful Blue' (Routledge, 2021).
- 'Vermilion, or why Cezanne took the shine off things', Word & Image, vol. 26, no. 1 (2020), 64-79.
- 'Victorine's Secret: Baudelaire and the Ambiguity of Commodities', in André Dombrowski and Hollis Clayson (eds.), Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? (Routledge/Ashgate, 2016), 74-93.