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Professor Whitney Davis



Professor Whitney Davis (2013–2016) has been George C. and Helen N. Pardee Professor of History of Art at the University of California at Berkeley since 2001. Previously he taught at Northwestern University, where he was John Evans Professor of Art History and Director of the Alice Berline Kaplan Center for the Humanities. He received his PhD in Fine Arts from Harvard University in 1985, where he was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows from 1983 to 1986.

Davis has been awarded fellowships by the Stanford Humanities Center, the National Humanities Center, the Getty Research Institute, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He has served as a member of the board of the College Art Association and recently as a member of the Advisory Board of CASVA; currently he serves on the predoctoral fellowship committee of the Social Science Research Council and as a member of an initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation (and headquartered at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University) to “rethink the PhD in art history.” At Berkeley, he has served as Chair of the Department of History of Art, Director of the Film Studies Program, Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, Chair of the University Senate Committee on the Library and Scholarly Communication, and Director of the Consortium for the Arts and the Arts Research Center. He was a founding member of what is now the Berkeley Center for New Media.



Davis's teaching and research interests include prehistoric and archaic arts (especially prehistoric and predynastic arts of north eastern Africa); worldwide rock art; the Classical tradition and neoclassicism in Western art since the later Middle Ages, and especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain; the development of professional art history in interaction with archaeology, philosophical aesthetics, comparative anthropology, and other disciplines; art theory in visual-cultural studies, especially problems of pictorial representation and other kinds of visual notation; aspects of modern art history, especially its expression (or not) of nonnormative sexualities; the history and theory of sexuality, especially the history of psychoanalysis; queer theory; world art studies; and environmental, evolutionary, and cognitive approaches to the global history of visual culture. 


Selected publications

Davis is the author of seven books:

In addition, he has published several exhibition catalogs and essays on artists in monograph format, most recently Massimo Vitali: Natural Habitats  (Photographs 2004-2009) (Steidl Publishers, 2010), and is the author of over ninety articles in journals, anthologies, and essay collections, including recent contributions to the Blackwell Companion to British Art, the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, the online journal of critical theory nonsite, and an edited volume on Heideggereanism in art history.

He is currently working on three book projects: Visuality and Virtuality: Images and Pictures from Ancient Egypt to New Media (a companion volume to A General Theory of Visual Culture); Space, Time, and Depiction (based on his Research Forum Lectures at the Courtauld Institute of Art); and Inquiry in Art History (a study of the interaction of idiographic and nomological traditions of explanation in art history since the late 19th century).

Recent talks and lectures have dealt with eighteenth-century British portraiture; the representation of climate change in Paleolithic and other prehistoric arts; the question of visual “illusions” in ancient Egyptian depiction; the effect of artistic modernism on late 19th and early 20th century descriptions of Classical Greek sculpture; the nature of “post-formalism” in art history in the early 21st century; and Michael Baxandall’s model of the “idiographic stance.”