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J. Vanessa Lyon

J. Vanessa Lyon
Assistant Professor


Vanessa Lyon teaches early modern art with an emphasis on gender, historiography, theology, and cross-cultural relationships in Spanish, Flemish, and British visual representation (circa 1400-1800). Her publications include an article exploring exegesis in a late medieval Burgundian manuscript commissioned by Margaret of York (Word & Image, 2009); "Full of Grace: Lactation, Expression and Colorito in some Early Works by Rubens" (J. Sperling, ed. Ashgate, 2013). And, most recently, “‘A Relic from the Cave of Pope’: Drawings of the Grotto in an Extra-Illustrated Plan of Pope’s Garden in the Huntington Library” (Huntington Library Quarterly, 2015). The article “A Psalm for King James: Rubens’s Peace Embracing Plenty and the Virtues of Female Affection at Whitehall” is forthcoming in Art History.  An essay examining the iconic portraits of the Mexican poet, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, will appear in the Ashgate Research Companion to the Works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

While an undergraduate participant in the ACM Florence Program, Professor Lyon developed an enduring fascination with Renaissance and Baroque painting that led to subsequent study in Madrid, Venice, and London. Her current research is divided between two projects: “Dark Arts” situates ‘painterly,’ representations of racialized women in the context of contemporary color theory by Dufresnoy, de Piles, Newton, Hogarth, Reynolds, Goethe, and Albers among others.  “Catholic Tastes” explores the role of foreignness, religion, and Baroque art in the development of Gothic visual culture in England from roughly 1715-1790.

Professor Lyon’s related teaching and research concentrates on portraiture, aesthetic theory, allegory, and the 'Baroqueness' of artists such as Titian, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Reynolds, and Hogarth. Her recent courses include a senior seminar on British Art and Foreignness as well as: ‘Gender, Race, and Fashion in Western Portraiture, 1550-1950,’ ‘The Baroque Imaginary,’ and ‘Subverting the Renaissance: Queerness and Visuality, 1500-1600.’ A former appraiser of decorative arts for a Chicago auction house, she has received fellowships and awards from the Yale Center for British Art, the Attingham Trust, the Lewis Walpole Library, the Huntington Library and Art Collection, the Fulbright Commission, Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS), and the Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain's Ministry of Culture and American Universities, among others. Prior to her arrival at Grinnell, Professor Lyon taught art history at the University of California at Berkeley and Reed College.

Campus Phone: 

(641) 269-4841


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On-Campus Address: 

246 Bucksbaum Center for the Arts
Grinnell, IA
United States

Education / Degrees: 

M.A. & Ph.D University of California, Berkeley
M.A. Iliff School of Theology
B.A. Lake Forest College (cum laude)