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University of Delaware Faculty

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Jennifer Van Horn
Assistant Professor of Art History and History
Early American Art and Material Culture
Ph.D. University of Virginia
University of Delaware
317 Old College
Newark, DE 19716


​Professor Jennifer Van Horn specializes in the fields of early American art and material culture. Her first book, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, ranges from engraved city views to portraits to dressing furniture to explore how elite American consumers assembled objects to form a new civil society on the margins of the British Empire. She has also written about early American prostheses (wooden legs and dentures) and women’s embroidery in the new American republic. Her courses encompass eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth-century decorative arts, material culture theory and methodology, museum studies, and the production of historical memory.​

In 2015-2016 Jennifer was awarded a Postdoctoral fellow at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum to work on her second book project, tentatively titled: Painting Slaves: Intersections of Slavery and American Art, 1720-1880. This book 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 freed African Americans who engaged in acts of iconoclasm and patronage.

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 American Art, Early American Studies, and Winterthur Portfolio, and worked as an assistant curator at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Before joining the University of Delaware, she taught at George Mason University and held a Postdoctoral fellowship at Winterthur Museum.

Selected Publications

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. Recipient of a College Art Association Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant, 2016.

“‘The Dark Iconoclast’: Slaves’ Artistic Resistance in the Civil War South,” The Art Bulletin (forthcoming).

“Prince Demah and the Profession of Portrait Painting,” Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery volume, (anticipated spring 2018).

“‘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, (anticipated fall 2017).

"Regional Tastes in a Transatlantic Market: Joseph Blackburn in New England and Bermuda," New England/New Spain: Portraiture in the Colonial Americas, 1492-1850. Ed., Donna Pierce. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press for the Mayer Center for Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art at the Denver Art Museum, 2016.

“George Washington’s Dentures: Disability, Deception, and the Republican Body,” Early American Studies 14:1 (Winter 2016): 2-47.

“The Mask of Civility: Portraits of Colonial Women and the Transatlantic Masquerade,” American Art 23: 3 (Fall 2009): 8-35.

“Samplers, Gentility, and the Middling Sort,” Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture 40:4 (Winter 2005): 219-48.

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  • Department of Art History
  • University of Delaware
  • 318 Old College
  • Newark, DE 19716 USA
  • Phone: 302-831-8415