Bridget Alsdorf Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2008
Bridget Alsdorf’s area of specialization is European art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with an emphasis on art produced in France from the Second Empire to World War I. Her work explores visual art’s intersections with literature, philosophy, and social psychology, and considers the ways in which 19th-century transformations remain at the core of our contemporary world. An associated faculty member in the Department of French & Italian, she also contributes courses to the programs in Humanistic Studies and European Cultural Studies. Her research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program, the Luce Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has also worked at a number of museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Alsdorf is the author of Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting (2012), a study of the fraught dynamic between individual and group in the work of Courbet, Manet, Degas, Bazille, Renoir and (most extensively) Fantin-Latour. Through close readings of the some of the most ambitious paintings of the realist and impressionist generation, the book argues for the importance of association as a defining subject of modern art. Alsdorf has also published essays on Bonnard, Cézanne, Degas, Gaillard, Manet, Hammershøi, Poussin, Utrillo, and Vallotton, and is on the editorial board of nonsite.org.
Professor Alsdorf teaches a broad range of courses on modern European art, including lecture-based surveys of painting and sculpture from Neoclassicism through Post-Impressionism to upper-level seminars on special topics. These topics have hinged on historical relationships between artistic media, the convergence of art and social theory, and new directions in the field. Other courses have addressed the work of a single artist (e.g. Manet), or the idea of the artist since the Renaissance period. All courses take advantage of local collections – including the Met, the MoMA, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, the National Gallery of Art, and the Princeton Art Museum – for group discussion as well as individual projects. Special attention is paid to close looking, methodology, and interdisciplinary research.
Alsdorf’s current book project, Theaters of the Crowd, focuses on representations (across multiple media) of crowds and theatrical audiences in fin-de-siècle France, with particular interest in the cultural phenomenon of gawking (badauderie) and the relationship between art and emerging fields of social psychology. The book centers on a group of innovative artists and film-makers – including Vallotton, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and the Lumière brothers – who placed the passive, susceptible vision of the gawker (le badaud) center-stage, unseating the flâneur as the modern subject par excellence. Alsdorf is also collaborating with Todd Cronan on a translation of philosopher Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s Écrits sur l’art, under contract with Fordham University Press, and is preparing two essays: one on Manet’s still lifes for an upcoming exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Getty Museum, and another on Bonnard’s illustrations to Verlaine’s book of poems, Parallèlement, 1900.
“Painting the Femme Peintre,” in Laurence Madeline et al, Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900. Yale University Press, 2017.
“Hammershøi’s Either/Or.” Critical Inquiry 42.2 (Winter 2016).
“Félix Vallotton’s Murderous Life.” The Art Bulletin 97.2 (June 2015).
“Bonnard’s Sidewalk Theater.” In “Nineteenth-Century France Now: Art, Technology, Culture.” nonsite 14 (Winter 2014/2015).
“Manet’s Quarrel with Impressionism.” In Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art From the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection. Yale University Press, 2014.
“Cyprien Gaillard: Blowing Off Steam.” Parkett 94 (June 2014).
Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting. Princeton University Press, 2012.
“Interior Landscapes: Metaphor and Meaning in Cézanne's Late Still Lifes.” Word & Image 26.4 (Oct. 2010).
“La fraternité des individus: les portraits de groupe de Degas.” 48/14: La revue du Musée d’Orsay 30 (Oct. 2010).
“Pleasure’s Poise: Classicism and Baroque Allegory in Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time.” The Seventeenth Century 23.2 (Oct. 2008).