My area of specialization is European art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with an emphasis on art produced in France from the Second Empire to World War I. My work explores visual art’s intersections with literature, philosophy, and social psychology, and considers the ways in which 19th-century transformations remain at the core of our contemporary world. An associated faculty member in the Department of French & Italian, I also contribute courses to the programs in Humanistic Studies and European Cultural Studies. My research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program, the Luce Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Trained at Yale and UC Berkeley, I have also worked at a number of museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
My book, Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting (2013), is a study of the fraught dynamic between individual and group in the work of Courbet, Manet, Degas, Bazille, Renoir and (most extensively) Fantin-Latour. Through close readings of the some of the most ambitious paintings of the realist and impressionist generation, the book argues for the importance of association as a defining subject of modern art. I have also published essays on Bonnard, Cézanne, Degas, Gaillard, Hammershøi, Manet, Poussin, Utrillo, and Vallotton, and am on the editorial board of nonsite.org.
My current book project, Gawkers: Art and Audience in Fin-de-siècle France, focuses on representations (across multiple media) of crowds and theatrical audiences in fin-de-siècle French art, with particular interest in the cultural phenomenon of gawking (badauderie) and the relationship between art and emerging fields of social psychology. The book centers on a group of innovative artists and film-makers – Vallotton, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Angrand, Steinlen, and the Lumière brothers – who placed the passive, susceptible vision of the gawker (le badaud) center-stage, unseating the flâneur as the modern subject par excellence. Whereas the flâneur is a figure of cool detachment and intellectual control, always the choreographer and interpreter of his urban strolling, the badaud is emotional, highly impressionable, and distractible, a cipher of a person both generated and fascinated by crowds. This crudely emotive, anonymous creature was central to the artistic production of fin-de-siècle France, both as a motif in works of art and as a rising model of the modern viewer.
Other projects include a series of issues on nineteenth-century art, co-edited with Marnin Young, for nonsite; a translation, with Todd Cronan, of philosopher Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s Écrits sur l’art, under contract with Fordham University Press; an essay on Manet’s Baudelairean treatment of flowers, both in his late still lifes and in several of his major Salon paintings, for the catalog to an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Getty Museum; an essay on Bonnard's illustrations to Verlaine's Parallèlement, 1900; and an article on Vallotton's Communard portraits for a future issue of Nineteenth-Century French Studies on the legacy of the Paris Commune.