Whitney Davis

History of Art

130424_015-3Whitney Davis (George C. and Helen Pardee Professor of History of Art) has been professor of history and theory of ancient and modern at UC 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’s teaching and research interests include prehistoric and archaic arts (especially prehistoric and predynastic arts of northeastern 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 in relation to computation and notation; aspects of modern art history, especially its expression (or not) of nonnormative sexualities; the history and theory of sexuality, especially the early history of psychoanalysis; queer theory; world art studies; and environmental, evolutionary, and cognitive approaches to the global history of visual culture.

He is the author of seven books: The Canonical Tradition in Ancient Egyptian Art (Cambridge, 1989), Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late Prehistoric Egyptian Art (California, 1992), Pacing the World: Construction in the Sculpture of David Rabinowitch (Harvard, 1996); Drawing the Dream of the Wolves: Homosexuality, Interpretation, and Freud’s “Wolf Man” Case (Indiana, 1996); Replications: Archaeology, Art History, Psychoanalysis (1996); Queer Beauty: Sexuality and Aesthetics from Winckelmann to Freud and Beyond (Columbia, 2010); and A General Theory of Visual Culture (Princeton, 2010), which received the Monograph Prize of the American Society for Aesthetics and the Susanne K. Langer Award of the Media Ecology Association. 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). He has published over 80 articles in journals, anthologies, and conference proceedings. Recent talks and articles deal with eighteenth-century British portraiture; the representation of climate change in prehistoric art; “frontality” in ancient Egyptian depiction; the effect of modernism on the description of Classical Greek art in the early twentieth century; the nature of “post-formalism” in art history in the early 21st century; and Michael Baxandall’s model of the “idiographic stance.