Professor Erin Pauwels appointed ninth Terra Foundation Visiting Professor in American Art


Professor Erin Pauwels has been appointed the 2024-25 Terra Foundation Visiting Professor in American Art in the Department of History of Art at the University of Oxford.  

Professor Pauwels, Associate Professor of American Art at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, specialises in the history of photography, media theory, and ecocriticism, with a particular interest in the intersections between theatre and the visual arts. She received her PhD in Art History and American Studies from Indiana University and previously taught at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her post at Oxford is very generously funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.  

In 2023, her book Napoleon Sarony's Living Pictures: The Celebrity Photograph in Gilded Age New York was published by the Pennsylvania State University Press. It reconstructs the legacy of America's first celebrity photographer and reveals how the emergence of mass media reshaped traditional definitions of art. While at Oxford, Professor Pauwels will work on a new monograph that explores the social architecture of photography by considering how studio portraits of Native American subjects were staged and circulated during the 19th and early 20th century.  

Professor Pauwels will teach an undergraduate survey course at Oxford on American art from the 17th century to the present day. She will offer as well a Master's course on art and environmental thought that focuses on how land, animals, and material resources have inspired the art and, more broadly, the visual and material culture of the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.  

During her time in Oxford, Professor Pauwels will also be a Visiting Fellow at Worcester College, where she will deliver the annual Terra Lectures in American Art in the Spring of 2025. The lectures will be open to staff and students at Oxford, as well as to the wider public. 

The Head of the History of Art Department at the University of Oxford, Professor Geraldine Johnson, said: "We are delighted to have Professor Pauwels join us as the ninth Terra Visiting Professor of American art. Her work on the history of photography and her ecocritical approach to American art will inspire students and researchers not only in the Department, but also those working in faculties and collections throughout Oxford." 

Professor Pauwels said: “I am thrilled for the opportunity to contribute to the study of American art and visual culture at Oxford. I look forward to working with students to consider art’s historical role in constructing an image of the North American environment, as well as how ecological conditions impact the social, political, and economic contexts for making art. I am grateful to the Terra Foundation for supporting this position and for their ongoing commitment to advancing research that broadens the narratives of American art in a global context.” 

Thanks to the Terra Foundation's support for the Visiting Professorship, the study of American art from global perspectives continues to be promoted at the University of Oxford and beyond. The Visiting Professors teach undergraduate and graduate students, undertake advanced research on American art, deliver public lectures, and organise conferences and study days that encourage international research collaboration. 

The Terra Foundation for American Art fosters intercultural dialogues and encourages transformative practices to expand narratives of American art. The Foundation’s grant program, art collection, and initiatives support visual art projects engaged in reshaping how stories of American art are told. More information can be found on the Foundation’s website.  

Photo credit: Rachael Reynolds.