18th and 19th century European, contemporary post-1970s, feminist and critical theory
Director of Graduate Studies
Ewa Lajer-Burcharth is the William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. She teaches modern and contemporary art focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, post-1970s art, and critical theory. Among the courses she has taught are: Introduction to Modern Art &Visual Culture (1700-1990); Modern Art and Modernity; Body Image in Art & Visual Culture of the 18th- and 19th Centuries; The Origins of Modernity; The Early Modern Artist; Exoticism & Orientalism; Modern Art and Subjectivity, Contemporary Women Artists, Critical Strategies in Contemporary Art; Painting and Its Discontents; Art and the Enlightenment; a series of seminars on different aspects of drawing, and Humanities 20: Colloquium In the Visual Arts. (See Courses for the full list.) In recognition of her distinguished contribution to undergraduate teaching, graduate education and research, she was awarded a Harvard College Professorship (2004-2009).
Her current research interests include historical conceptualization of drawing as a practice, a medium and a discourse; the issue of artistic individuality in its different historical formulations; the relation between space and subjectivity; the question of interiority; the dialectic of privacy and publicness; the historical conceptions of painting as a practice, a discourse and an institution; art practice in a revolutionary situation, and art, architecture and technology in the Enlightenment. She co-organized two international conferences: Interiors and Interiority, an exploration of the historical connections between the notions of architectural interior, subjective space, and visual and literary representations of space; and Painting Beyond Itself, a consideration of the historical vicissitudes of painting as a medium and an institution. In 2010 she also organized an international conference Inside/Out: Exploring Gender and Space in Life, Culture, and Art at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study featuring artists and scholars. She is chair of the Visual Representation, Materiality and the Medium Seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard.
Recipient of the Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Guggenheim Fellowship, among others, she was also a fellow at of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Wissenshaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, and the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris.
Professor Lajer-Burcharth is the author of Necklines: The Art of Jacques-Louis David after the Terror (Yale University Press, 1999); Chardin Material (Sternberg Press, 2011); and The Painter’s Touch: Boucher, Chardin, Fragonard, (Princeton University Press, 2017). She has also coedited and contributed to Interiors and Interiority (with Beate Söntgen; De Gruyter, 2015; Painting Beyond Itself: the Medium in the Post-medium Condition (with Isabelle Graw; Sternberg Press, 2016); and Drawing: The Invention of A Modern Medium (with Elizabeth M. Rudy; Harvard Art Museums, 2017). The latter is a catalogue of an exhibition she conceived and co-organized at the Harvard Art Museums and the graduate and undergraduate students in the department. (January-May 2017). Professor Lajer-Burcharth is currently working on a book project on drawing in the eighteenth century, and on another one on the question of color.
Her essays include (for the full list and PDFs of selected articles, see Publications): "Pompadour's Touch: Difference in Representation," Representations 73 (Winter 2001); “The Self in Exile: David’s Portrait of Sièyes,” in Mark Ledbury, ed., David after David. Essays on the Later Work, Yale University Press, 2007; “Genre and Sex,” in Philip Conisbee, ed., Genre Painting in Eighteenth-Century France. The Volume, CASVA and National Gallery of Art Publications, Yale University Press, 2007; “Image Matters: The Case of Boucher,” in Elizabeth Cropper, ed.,Dialogues in Art History, Center of Advanced Study in Visual Arts, National Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2008; and "Chardin cruel," in René Démoris, Jacques Berchtold, Christophe Martin, eds.,Violence du rococo, Bordeaux: Presses Universitaires, 2011; “Drawing Time,” October 151 (Winter 2015); “The Stroller: Gabriel de Saint-Aubin’s Urban Drawing,” in Body Narratives: Motion and Emotion in the French Enlightenment, ed. Susanna Caviglia, (Brepols Publishers, 2017); “Chardin’s Schoolmistress: Ethics of Pedagogy and Painting,” Afterall, June 2020.
On the contemporary art front, among the most recent are: “Interiors At Risk: Precarious Spaces in Contemporary Art,” Harvard Design Magazine, special issue on “What about the inside,” Fall/Winter 2008/2009; “Borders,” in Krzysztof Wodiczko: Guests, exhibition catalogue, The Polish Pavilion, Venice Biennial (53 Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte), June-November, 2009; and “Interior and Interiority: Chantal Akerman’s La Bas,” 31 Das Magazin des Instituts für Theorie, Special Issue: Die Figur Der Zwei/The Figure of Two, Zürich, No. 14/15 December 2010; “The Inner Life of Painting,” essay in the exhibition catalogue Amy Sillman, The Institute of Contemporary Art, 2013; “Das Atelier der Malerin/The Paintress’s Studio,” in Jutta Koether: Libertine, exh. cat., Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, 2020; "Alex Katz: Abecedario of A Style," essay in Alex Katz, exhibition catalogue for the artist’s retrospective exhibition, The Guggenheim Museum, 2022.