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Professor Jennifer Van Horn specializes in the art and material culture of the United States. Her courses encompass eighteenth and nineteenth-century artworks, objects, and landscapes, material culture theories and methodologies, museum studies, and the contested production of historical memory.
Her current book, Portraits of Resistance: Activating Art During Slavery, is under contract with Yale University Press (2022). This work investigates the interconnections between enslaved people and representation in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century United States. It examines the role enslaved African Americans played as producers and viewers of portraits in the plantation South, and uncovers the importance portraiture held for newly emancipated African Americans who engaged in acts of iconoclasm and patronage. In 2018-2019 she was a senior fellow at CASVA (Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts) at the National Gallery of Art, and in 2015-2016 Jennifer held a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum to work on this book. In 2019, she received the National Portrait Gallery's Director's Essay Prize for a piece of this project published in The Art Bulletin.
Her first book, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America (2017) ranges from engraved city views to portraits to dressing furniture to explore how elite colonial American consumers assembled objects to form a new civil society on the margins of the British Empire. The Power of Objects was a finalist for the George Washington Prize, and was awarded an honorable mention for the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies' Louis Gottschalk Prize. She has also written about early American prostheses (wooden legs and dentures) and women's embroidery in the new American republic.
A graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture (M.A.), and the University of Delaware (Honors B.A. History and Art History), Jennifer received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. She has published articles in The Art Bulletin, American Art, Early American Studies, Winterthur Portfolio, and was a guest co-editor for a special issue of Winterthur Portfolio "Enslavement and Its Legacies." Before joining the University of Delaware, she worked as an assistant curator at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and taught at George Mason University and with the Smithsonian M.A. Program in the History of Decorative Arts.
The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2017. Finalist, 2018 George Washington Prize. Honorable Mention, 2018 Louis Gottschalk Prize, American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Recipient of a College Art Association Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant.
“‘Painting’ Faces and ‘Dressing’ Tables: Concealment in Early Southern Dressing Furniture,” Faces and Places: The Life of Things in Early America. Ed., George Boudreau and Margaretta Lovell. University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2019, 42-59.
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