Madeleine Harrison

Associate Lecturer. Centre for the Art of the Americas Postdoctoral Fellow 2018-19

I am a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century US visual culture, with a research focus on the long Harlem Renaissance. My research examines stylistic hybridity in Harlem Renaissance paintings, murals, and illustrations, with particular emphasis on the porous boundaries between the US and Europe and between modernist and academic visual languages.

I was recently awarded my doctorate for a thesis examining the murals and illustrations Aaron Douglas produced between 1925 and 1934. The graphic, abstracted visual language Douglas developed in this period has been primarily read by scholars as indebted almost exclusively to European modernism. My research identified the significant degree to which his works also refer to historical American representations of Black subjects — to abolitionist visual culture from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example, and to popular historical fiction and social scientific publications which both sought to erase Black life from mainstream imaginings of American culture. This new account of Douglas’ practice demonstrated that his work emerged within a complex framework of transnational and transhistorical visual reference points; it situated Douglas within a Harlem Renaissance intellectual culture which prioritised, in Arturo A. Schomburg’s words, ‘remak[ing] the past.’




2021: PhD History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art
Supervised by Professor David Peters Corbett

2017: MA History of Art, with special option ‘New York-London-Paris 1880-1940,’ The Courtauld Institute of Art

2015: BA (Hons) History of Art, University of Bristol

Research interests

  • The visual cultures of the United States, 1830–1950
  • Visual histories of race in the United States
  • The artistic and intellectual culture of the Harlem Renaissance
  • Stylistic hybridity
  • Transnational histories of modernism and its antecedents

Awards, grants and fellowships

2021–22: Terra Foundation for American Art — Academic Workshop and Symposium Grant (with Louis Shadwick)

2018–21: CHASE Doctoral Studentship

2019: Terra Foundation for American Art — Immersion Semesters Fellowship, Harvard University

2018–19: Terra Foundation for American Art — Research Travel Grant to the United States, 2018-19


2022: ‘Aaron Douglas,’ in African Modernism in America, 1947–67, exh. cat (Vanderbilt University Press and the American Federation of the Arts

Invited lectures

2020: ‘A Nation at a Crossroads: The United States in Thomas Moran’s Autumn Afternoon, the Wissahickon,’ Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (cancelled due to Covid-19 lockdown)

2018: ‘Unstoppable Progress, Inevitable Decay: Cole, Bellows and Ruscha and the American Empire,’ National Gallery, London


2021–: Associate Lecturer, BA3 Lessons in Critical Interpretation, The Courtauld Institute of Art

2017–: Guest Lecturer, The Harlem Renaissance, MA seminar for ‘New York-London-Paris 1880-1940,’ The Courtauld Institute of Art

2021: Guest Lecturer, BA3 Special Option Body Politics: Art, Gender and Class in the Victorian Metropolis, The Courtauld Institute of Art

2019–21: Teaching Assistant, BA1 Foundations (Western art, classical to contemporary), The Courtauld Institute of Art

2020: Teaching Assistant, Art History Summer University (introduction to art history for Year 12 students), The Courtauld Institute of Art

Conferences and workshops


March 2022: ‘American Art and the Political Imagination,’ The Courtauld Institute of Art (with Louis Shadwick)

October 2020: Third Year Symposium [Online], The Courtauld Institute of Art (with Emma Merkling)


October 2020: ‘Plantation Futures: Aaron Douglas’ Aspects of Negro Life,’ Third Year Symposium [Online], The Courtauld Institute of Art

June 2019: ‘Time, Space, and Cultural Inheritance: Aaron Douglas’ Fisk University Murals,’ Second Year Modern and Contemporary Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art

November 2018: ‘FIRE!! Magazine and the Visualisation of Cultural Conflict’ – ‘New Voices 2018: Art and Conflict,’ Association for Art History, University of Edinburgh

March 2018: ‘Isabel Bishop, Experience and Fantasy’ – ‘Experience and American Art,’ The Courtauld Institute of Art

February 2018: ‘Aaron Douglas and Frantz Fanon’ – CHASE School of American Visual Arts and Texts PhD Workshop, Eccles Centre, British Library

December 2017: ”The People who are Trivial Outside:’ Isabel Bishop, Homosocial Fantasy and Class Spectatorship, 1930-1940′ – ‘Chasing America,’ CHASE School of American Visual Arts and Texts, Courtauld Institute of Art