Thomas Crow

Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art

My teaching and research at the Institute of Fine Arts reach from the later seventeenth century in Europe to the later twentieth century and the contemporary. My earliest work centered on France near the earlier end of this time span. Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris appeared in 1985 and was quickly recognized as having established a fresh model for understanding the art and larger culture of its period. It received three prizes and did much to revitalize its area of study for a cohort of younger scholars who followed. 

At the same time, my commitment to understanding the interaction between artistic creation and social circumstance led me to seek such patterns in the art of twentieth century, the outcome being “Modernism and Mass Culture in the Visual Arts” (1982), a widely cited and reprinted essay that demonstrated interdependency rather than antagonism between modern fine art and popular forms of visual expression.

In a return to the subject matter of my first book, Emulation: Making Artists for Revolutionary France (1996) focused the wide scope of its predecessor onto the creative interactions of a small number of key artists within the studio where they were formed, observing how their affiliations and rivalries played out over the period of Revolution and Empire. That interest in individual artistic formation led me to write Gordon Matta-Clark (2003), a study of the then little known but immensely influential young sculptor, who had died prematurely in 1978. As Matta-Clark had been a leader in the emergent art community of SoHo in the 1970s, an account of his life entailed a large and necessary social dimension.

All of these concerns—the broad social history of artistic form, reassessing cultural hierarches, the individual formation of artists—came together in my recent, warmly received Long March of Pop: Art, Music, and Design 1930-1995 (2015). I have also continued along the explicitly theoretical direction begun in “Modernism and Mass culture” with two books, The Intelligence of Art (1999) and the forthcoming No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art (2016). Also in advanced preparation is the manuscript of my Andrew W. Mellon Lectures, delivered at the National Gallery of Art in 2015, which took up European art in the immediate wake of Revolution and Empire: Restoration as Event and Idea: Art in Europe 1814 to 1820. In 2017, I will give the Paul Mellon Lectures at the London National Gallery and Yale Center for British Art, on the subject of “Art, Ideas, and Subcultures in Postwar London.”

My courses at the Institute have reflected all these strands of interest, as have the topics chosen and independently developed by my students. Since arriving at the Institute in 2007, I have sponsored fourteen completed doctorates, with a comparable number of candidates expected to finish over the next year or two. My other service has included serving as Associate Provost for the Arts (2007-2013) and a term as Deputy Director of the Institute to begin in January 2017. On the external side, I have been for twenty years an active contributing editor at Artforum. In addition to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I have in recent years held a J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship and two fellowships at the Clark Art Institute. I hold an honorary doctorate from Pomona College and will receive another in July from the University of London.

Thomas Crow is the Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art. He has authored two influential studies of eighteenth-century French painting: Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris (1985), which received the Morey Prize from the College Art Association, and Emulation: Making Artists for Revolutionary France (1995). Subsequent publications, including The Rise of the Sixties: American and European Art in the Era of Dissent and the essay collection Modern Art in the Common Culture (both 1996), examine the later twentieth century, while The Intelligence of Art (1999) analyses specific moments in the history of art. Crow’s most recent books are The Long March of Pop: Art, Design, and Music, 1930–1995 (2015); No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art (2017); Restoration: the Fall of Napoleon in the Course of European Art (2018); and the forthcoming The Hidden Mod in Modern Art, London 1956-1969.

Crow has received numerous honors throughout his career. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary degrees from Pomona College and the University of London. He was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship in 2014 and delivered the Andrew W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery in 2015.

Before his appointment at the Institute of Fine Arts, Crow was director of the Getty Research Institute, professor of art history at the University of Southern California, professor and chair in the history of art at the University of Sussex, and the Robert Lehman Professor of the History of Art at Yale.