Art History Program

Kristin Schwain

Kristin Schwain
Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Art History
Focus Area: 

American Art


Ph.D. Stanford University

Research Description: 

My research seeks to complicate the story of American modernism by showcasing that the roots of the twentieth-century art world are mired in the complexities of lived experience and visual culture. I do so by examining the roles played by religion, race, region, and consumption in art’s production, display, and reception. I show that religious belief and practices helped formed our conception of modern aesthetic experience; that artists of the African diaspora turned to religious expressions of all kinds to create a self-consciously Modern art and identity; that myriad modernisms developed in different regions of the country in response to local cultures, politics, and traditions; and that department stores, as much as museums and world’s fairs, were central to educating audiences and providing space for modern art’s appreciation, display, and dissemination.


ARHA 1120: Renaissance to Modern Art 
ARHA 2830: Introduction to American Art and Architecture (Writing Intensive) 
ARHA 2850: Introduction to Visual Culture (Writing Intensive) 
ARHA 3830: American Art and Culture, 1500-1820
ARHA 3840: American Art and Culture, 1820-1913 
ARHA 3850: American Art and Culture, 1913-Present
ARHA 4005 / 7005: Topics in Art History and Archaeology (Topics: American Art and Culture Around 1900; American Photography)
ARHA 4820 / 7820: American Material Culture (Topics: Visual Culture of American Religions; Vernacular Cultures; Mid-Century Modernism and the “Missouri-Heart of the Nation” Collection; 20th Century American Photography: The Glen Serbin Collection of Photographs at the University of Missouri 
ARHA 7130: Museum Studies  
ARHA 8110: Introduction to Graduate Study
ARHA 8120: Theories and Methodologies in Art History and Archaeology 
ARHA 8800: Seminar in American Art (Topics: Material Culture of Religion; Visual Culture; African American Art; American Modernisms)
HUM 2114: The Modern Era

Selected Publications: 
  • Signs of Grace: Religion and American Art in the Gilded Age, Cornell University Press, 2008.
  • “Creating History, Establishing a Canon: Jacob Lawrence'sThe First Book of Moses, Called Genesis” inBehold! Representations of Christ and Christianity in African-American Art, eds. James Romaine and Phoebe Wolfskill, forthcoming.
  • “Consuming Christ: Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Biblical Paintings and Nineteenth-Century American Commerce” inReVisioning: Critical Methods of Seeing Christianity in the History of Art,eds. James Romaine and Linda Stratford (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, a division of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013), pages 277-293.
  • “Abbott Handerson Thayer, An Angel(1893)” in Layton’s Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection, 1888-2013(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013).
  •  Ediciones Vigía’sBarquitos del San Juan: La Revista de los Niños (Año 13, no. 23, 2007), Object Narrative, Initiative for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion at Yale University, 2013.
  • “The Scorpio Trail: A Racial Storyscape of Columbia, Missouri” for Robert Ladislas Derr’s multi-media exhibition, Discovering Columbus(2012). Located at:
  • "Visual Culture and American Religions,” Religion Compass (Special Issue on The Sensorium of American Religions, eds. Jason Bivins and Sean McCloud) Volume 4 Issue 3 (May 2010): 190-201.
  • “Visual Culture: Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts from the Civil War to World War II,” in Encyclopedia of Religion in America, eds. Charles H. Libby and Peter W. Williams (C.Q. Press, 2010), 2278-2286.
  • “Carl Gutherz’s Esoteric Art” inCarl Gutherz: Poetic Vision and Academic Ideals, ed. Marilyn Masler and Marina Pancini (Memphis: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 2009).
  • “Anointing Modernism,”Re-Enchantment (The Art Seminar), eds. James Elkins and David Morgan (New York: Routledge, 2009): 273-5.
  • “F. Holland Day’sThe Seven Last Words of Christand the Religious Roots of American Modernism,”American Art19, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 32-59.

Museum Exhibitions

  • Guest Curator,Mendive, Chaco, and the Havana Renaissance, Museum of Art and Archaeology, anticipated Fall 2016
  • Guest Curator,Sites of Experience:Keith Crown and the New Mexican Landscape, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia, Winter 2013
  • Guest Curator,Exploration, Interpretation, and the Works of George Caleb Bingham, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia, June 9-August 19, 2007