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 1400-1750). Her publications include an article exploring exegesis in a late medieval Burgundian manuscript commissioned by Margaret of York (Word & Image, 2009) and, more recently, "Full of Grace: Lactation, Expression and Colorito in some Early Works by Rubens" (Ashgate, 2013). Work in progress concerns painted and printed portraits of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and the religio-aesthetic implications of Alexander Pope’s Twickenham grotto.
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. For a book project provisionally titled: 'Catholic Tastes,' she is currently investigating the role of foreignness, religion, and Baroque art in the development of Gothic visual culture in England from roughly 1715-1790. Her 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 Attingham Summer School, 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.