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Michelle Foa Associate Professor Newcomb Art Department Tulane University

Michelle Foa

Associate Professor, Art History, Modern Europe
Director of Graduate Studies
311 Woldenberg Art Center


Ph.D., Princeton University, Nineteenth-Century European Art


Michelle Foa is an Associate Professor of European art from the 18th through the early 20th centuries, with a particular focus on 19th-century French art, visual and material culture, and writings on art. Before coming to Tulane in 2008, the year that she completed her doctorate at Princeton University, she taught at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton.  Her book, titled Georges Seurat: The Art of Vision, was published in 2015 by Yale University Press and takes the artist’s interest in vision as its central focus.  Professor Foa positions Seurat’s body of work as an extended meditation on the relationship between vision and knowledge, situating his pictures in close relation to discourses in 19th-century philosophy, optics, psychology, and popular culture on the operation of the senses and their role in how we come to understand the world.  She is currently at work on a book on Edgar Degas titled The Matter of Degas: Art and Materiality in Later Nineteenth-Century Paris.  Other research and teaching interests include the materials of art, the relationship between art, science, and technology, and art historiography and criticism.

Professor Foa serves on the faculty advisory committee of the Environmental Studies Program at Tulane.  She is the lead faculty member for a new “360-Degree” course titled “Environmental Perspectives: An Interdisciplinary Approach,” which she co-teaches with colleagues in Architecture, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Sociology and for which she received a grant from the Carol Lavin Bernick Family Foundation.  She was awarded a William L. Duren ‘26 Professorship in 2016-17 and a Monroe Research Fellowship the following year for her work on Edgar Degas's New Orleans cotton office pictures.  In the fall of 2019, she will assume an endowed professorship at the Phyllis Taylor Center. 

In 2018-19, Professor Foa is a Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery in Washington. 

Select publications: 

 Yale University Press, 2015.


Georges Seurat: The Art of Vision, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015.


“The Making of Degas:  Duranty, Technology, and the Meaning of Materials,” invited contribution to special issue of nonsite on nineteenth-century art, edited by Bridget Alsdorf and Marnin Young (forthcoming, fall 2018)

“‘One Art Eating the Other’ in Emile Zola’s L’Oeuvre,” in Art and Music as Rival Sisters at the Birth of Modernism, 1800-1900. Aldershot, U.K. and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Press, 2014.

“(Anti) Biography and Neo-Impressionism,” RIHA: Journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, special issue on Neo-Impressionism, July 2012.

“Textual Inhibitions: Photographic Criticism in Late Victorian Britain,” History of Photography, February 2012.

“On the Spaces of Painting and Perception: Seurat and Helmholtz” in Georges Seurat: Figure in Space, exhibition catalogue for the Kunsthaus Zürich and the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, ed. Christoph Becker, Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2009. Catalogue published in English, French, and German editions.