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Professor of Art History Art History
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(205) 934-4942


  • M.A., Université de Paris/Sorbonne, Paris
  • Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle

Areas of Specialization: 18th-20th-century European art with a focus on French art and visual culture

Heather McPherson’s research focuses on portraiture and issues of representation, including the role of photography; the intersection of the visual and performing arts in eighteenth-century London; and the artist’s studio in nineteenth-century France. She has published widely on French art and visual culture in journals such as the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, and Nineteenth-Century Studies, and has authored exhibition catalogs on Gavarni’s Images of Women, Portraiture in the Age of Proust, and Marie Laurencin. Her research on Sarah Siddons and cultural politics has appeared in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, and essay volumes. Recent publications include: “Theatrical Celebrity and the Commodification of the Actor,” The Oxford Handbook of the Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832, eds. Julia Swindells and David F. Taylor, 192-212 (Oxford University Press, 2014) and “Branding Shakespeare: The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery and the Politics of Display,” in Exhibiting Outside the Academy, Salon, and Biennial, 1775-1999: Alternative Venues for Display, ed. Andrew Graciano, 37-53 (Ashgate, 2015). Her book Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons (Penn State UP, 2017, was awarded a Millard Meiss publication grant from CAA.

Her current project examines the evolving image of the artist in nineteenth-century France through the lens of the artist’s studio. Through a series of case studies stretching from Corot to Picasso, it reassesses how factors such as the intensified preoccupation with artistic identity and temperament and changing conditions of artistic production and the exhibition and marketing of art reshaped the image of the artist.

McPherson is the recipient of the 2016 Annibel Jenkins Prize for the best essay in theatre and performance studies for her 2015 essay, “Tragic Pallor and Siddons,” published in Eighteenth-Century Studies. She was awarded the 2001 Southeastern College Art Conference Award for Excellence in Scholarly Publishing for her book, The Modern Portrait in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge University Press, 2001), and received the Frederick W. Conner Prize in the History of Ideas for Fin-de-Siecle Faces: Portraiture in the Age of Proust (1989). She received the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Arts and Humanities in 1998.

Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Lewis Walpole Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Harvard Theatre Collection, the British Academy, the Yale Center for British Art, the Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Camargo Foundation.