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Jennifer Van Horn

Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies; joint appointment with History
Early American Art and Material Culture
Ph.D. University of Virginia
University of Delaware
317 Old College
Newark, DE 19716
 

Biography

Professor Jennifer Van Horn specializes in the fields of American art and material culture. 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. This work investigates the interconnections between enslaved people and representation in eighteenth and nineteenth-century America. 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 freed 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 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 worked as an assistant curator at George Washington's Mount Vernon. Before joining the University of Delaware, she taught at George Mason University and with the Smithsonian M.A. Program in the History of Decorative Arts.


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. (paperback 2019).

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

"'The Dark Iconoclast': Slaves' Artistic Resistance in the Civil War South," The Art Bulletin 99:4 (December 2017): 129-63.

"Prince Demah and the Profession of Portrait Painting," Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture. Ed., Wendy Wick Reaves. London: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, with D. Giles, Let., 2018, 42-59.

"'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.

"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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The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British Americahttps://www.arthistory.udel.edu/Arth Bookshelf/van-horn-power-objects.jpgThe Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British AmericaVan Horn, JenniferUniversity of North Carolina PressChapel Hill2017https://uncpress.org/book/9781469652191/the-power-of-objects-in-eighteenth-century-british-america/<p>Over the course of the eighteenth century, Anglo-Americans purchased an unprecedented number and array of goods. <em>The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America</em> investigates these diverse artifacts--from portraits and city views to gravestones, dressing furniture, and prosthetic devices--to explore how elite American consumers assembled objects to form a new civil society on the margins of the British Empire. In this interdisciplinary transatlantic study, artifacts emerge as key players in the formation of Anglo-American communities and eventually of American citizenship. Deftly interweaving analysis of images with furniture, architecture, clothing, and literary works, Van Horn reconstructs the networks of goods that bound together consumers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.<br></p><p>Moving beyond emulation and the desire for social status as the primary motivators for consumption, Van Horn shows that Anglo-Americans' material choices were intimately bound up with their efforts to distance themselves from Native Americans and African Americans. She also traces women's contested place in forging provincial culture. As encountered through a woman's application of makeup at her dressing table or an amputee's donning of a wooden leg after the Revolutionary War, material artifacts were far from passive markers of rank or political identification. They made Anglo-American society.<br></p>

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