Assistant Professor in the History of Art
History of Photography
B.A., Stanford University, 1999
Ph.D., Yale University, 2009
Jennifer Raab specializes in American art and visual culture with particular interests in the history of photography, aesthetic theory, the history of science, and the relationship between literary and visual representation. Her first book, Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail (Yale University Press, 2015), examines the changing visual, cultural, and historical meaning of detail through the works of Frederic Church. Focusing on the artist’s monumental representations of North and South America, the Arctic, and the Middle East, the book offers the first sustained examination of the aesthetics of detail that fundamentally shaped nineteenth-century American landscape painting and that is inseparable from scientific discourses of the time. More broadly, it asks: What is a detail? What does it mean to see a work of art “in detail”?
Her current book project, tentatively titled Relics of War, considers how the work of photographing warfare—and specifically violence to the body—shaped the visual language and cultural context for post-Civil War photography in the United States. Focusing on photographers including Mathew Brady, Timothy O’Sullivan, William H. Bell, and William A. Bell, the book explores a range of issues: the status of the relic in nineteenth-century culture and how the photograph itself might function as a relic; the material problem of dead bodies, burial, and commemoration; the connections between medical photography and landscape representation; and the relationship between photography and pilgrimage.
Before joining the Yale faculty in 2013, she held postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and at the John F. Kennedy-Institut für Nordamerikastudien, Freie Universität, Berlin. Her work has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
At Yale, Raab teaches courses on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century American art and the history of photography, often based on university collections. Her courses explore topics such as the art of scientific expeditions, representations of bodily pain, natural history and the construction of citizenship, landscape theory, the ethics of photojournalism, and twentieth-century modernisms. Recent essays and articles have considered history painting and the aesthetics of mapping, ornament and masculinity in portraits of Native Americans, the relationship between panoramic vision and telegraphic language in early railroad guidebooks, and the minimalist artist Dan Flavin’s collection of nineteenth-century American drawings. Her work has appeared in Art Bulletin, Art History, American Art, Journal of American Studies, and in exhibition catalogues for the National Gallery of Art and the Morgan Library and Museum.
“Landscape and the Risk of Metaphor,” forthcoming in American Art (Summer 2017).
“Landscape Across Media,” forthcoming in East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography, ed. Diane Waggoner (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2017).
“The One Who Makes Pictures,” Three Centuries of American Prints from the National Gallery of Art, ed. Judith Brodie (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2016), 36-43.
Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).
“Mapping History,” American Art 29 (Summer 2015): 19-25.
“‘Precisely These Objects’: Frederic Church and the Culture of Detail,” The Art Bulletin 95 (December 2013): 578-596.
“Panoramic Vision, Telegraphic Language: Selling the American West, 1868-1884,” Journal of American Studies 47 (May 2013): 495-520.
“‘Some Light on the American Landscape’: Dan Flavin and the Nineteenth Century,” in Dan Flavin: Drawing (New York: Morgan Library & Museum, 2012), 35-47.
“Painting and Illustration,” in Civil War America: A Social and Cultural History, ed. Maggi Morehouse and Zoe Trodd (New York: Routledge, 2012), 221-230.
“Details of Absence: Frederic Church and the Landscape of Post-Emancipation Jamaica,” Art History 34 (September 2011): 714-731, and in Anglo-American: Art between England and America, 1770-1970, ed. David Peters Corbett and Sarah Monks (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2012), 92-109.