Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen

Ph.D., 2015


Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen is Assistant Professor of Nineteenth-Century European Art at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. From 2019–2023, she was Associate Director of the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art at the Clark Art Institute. At Princeton, her doctoral work was supervised by Professor Brigid Doherty. Her dissertation won the Department's Jane Faggen Dissertation Prize and was supported by a three-year David E. Finley Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Emmelyn specializes in modern art and cultural history, primarily in Europe. A guiding preoccupation of her teaching and research is the intersection between the history of art and the histories of biology and psychology, with special reference to the history of sexuality. Other areas of particular interest include animal studies, concepts of genre and categories and hierarchies of biological kinds, relations of word and image, cognitive linguistics, theories and representations of gesture and corporeal expression, interactions between the visual and performing arts, the history of dance and early film, the history of art history and the history of art criticism.

Emmelyn’s first book, Modern Art & the Remaking of Human Disposition (University of Chicago Press, November 2021), analyzes a hitherto unexamined formal rupture in European art around 1900 when a wide range of artists abandoned longstanding formal conventions for posing and positioning the bodies of human figures. Exploring major works by Georges Seurat, Gustav Klimt, and the dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, the book combines close formal analysis with inquiries into scientific, psychological, and philosophical literature, to show how modern understandings of human consciousness and the relation of mind to body were materialized in art through a new vocabulary of postures and poses.

Developing out of Modern Art & the Remaking of Human Disposition is a second project addressing how Darwin’s evolutionary biology, in particular his theory of Sexual Selection, reshaped the trajectories of three key aesthetic concepts: design, hierarchy, and taste.

Emmelyn regularly writes long form reviews of historical exhibitions for Artforum magazine, most recently, “Men are Dogs,” a cover feature on the role of canine imagery in Titian’s thematization of sexual and colonial violence in the mythological image cycle known as the poesie.

Selected Publications

“Men are Dogs,” review of “Titian: Women, Myth & Power” (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), Artforum 60, no. 8 (April 2022): 172–187.

Modern Art and the Remaking of Human Disposition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021.

“A History of Violence,” review of “Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde” (MoMA), Artforum 59, no. 6 (April 2021): 118–127, 159.

“The Hierarchy of Genres and the Hierarchy of Life-Forms,” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 73/74 (Spring/Autumn 2020): 76–93.

“The Modern Woman, review of “Posing Modernity” (Wallach Art Gallery) and “Le modèle noir” (Musée d’Orsay) Artforum 58, no. 2 (October 2019): 188–200.

“Mannequin and Monkey in Seurat's Grande Jatte.” In Fashion in European Art: Dress and Identity, Politics and the Body, 1775–1925, edited by Justine de Young (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017), 150–177.