E. C. Chadbourne Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism (1989). BA, cum laude, 1977, Cornell University; MFA and MA, 1983, and PhD with honors, 1989, University of Chicago. Books: Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings; Chinese Landscape Painting as Western Art History; Pictures of the Body: Pain and Metamorphosis; The Domain of Images; How to Use Your Eyes; What Painting Is; The Poetics of Perspective; The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing; Why are our Pictures Puzzles?; On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them; What Happened to Art Criticism?; Six Stories from the End of Representation; Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction; What Photography Is; Art Critiques: A Guide.
James Elkins grew up in Ithaca, New York, separated from Cornell University by a quarter-mile of woods once owned by the naturalist Laurence Palmer.
He stayed on in Ithaca long enough to get the BA degree (in English and Art History), with summer hitchhiking trips to Alaska, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Columbia. For the last twenty-five years he has lived in Chicago; he got a graduate degree in painting, and then switched to Art History, got another graduate degree, and went on to do the PhD in Art History, which he finished in 1989. (All from the University of Chicago.) Since then he has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.
His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes). His most recent books are What Photography Is, written against Roland Barthes'sCamera Lucida, and Art Critiques: A Guide.
Current projects include an edited book series called the Stone Art Theory Institutes, and an edited book series called Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Art.
He married Margaret MacNamidhe in 1994 on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, off the West coast of Ireland. Margaret is also an art historian, with specialties in Delacroix and Picasso. Jim?s interests include microscopy (with a Zeiss Nomarski differential interference microscope and Anoptral phase contrast), stereo photography (with a Realist camera), playing piano (contemporary "classical" music), and (whenever possible) winter ocean diving.
- Arthur B. Kolat (Dual 2017): Twilight on the Roads: The Wagner Drives of David Hockney
- Ange Wong (MA 2016): To Cut and to Arrange: Radical Ikebana and Avant Garde Art in the 1950s
- Greg Sato (MA 2016): "Sophisticated Ignorance": Quantifying the Film Canon
- Margaret K. Carrigan (MA 2015): The Landscape, the Liminal, and the Lichtung: Albert Bierstadt's Western Frontier and the Technological Horizon
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.