Department of Art & Art History

Emily Burns

Emily Burns


108 Biggin Hall
(334) 844-4318


  • PhD, Art History and Archaeology, Washington University–St. Louis

Office Hours

    By appointment

About Emily Burns
Associate Professor

Dr. Burns’s research analyzes the circulation of artists and objects in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and interprets how mobility shapes visual culture and the cultural discourses of modernism and nationalism. She asks how circulation is framed within the materiality of objects, and how meanings change through transit and exhibition practices.

Her current book project, Performing Innocence: U.S. Art and Culture in fin-de-siècle Paris, examines the experiences of and art produced by some of the thousands of artists from the United States who studied and worked in Paris between the end of the Civil War and the start of World War I.  While popular thought holds that Americans went to Paris to imbibe culture and attain artistic maturity, the project argues that the majority performed a cultural immaturity that pandered to European expectations that the United States lacked history, tradition, and culture instead. Each chapter of Performing Innocence homes in on a different type of innocence that had currency within Franco-U.S. exchange through literary practice, the built environment, material and visual culture, and art. Burns links discursive innocence to ongoing conversations about race, gender, art making, modernity, physio-psychological experience, evolutionary theory, and national identities in France and the United States. This project explores the transnational cultural investments in performing and claiming U.S. art as pristine but also sterile, fresh but also undeveloped, rugged but also savage, primitive but also incipient, and childlike but also childish, all dichotomies that—even with their contradictions—outlined the contexts of reception in this period. Many U.S. artists in Paris mobilized these ideas simultaneously to turn the perceived liability of a lack of culture into an asset. What is obscured and repressed by mythical innocence and feigned forgetting? 

Burns’s book Transnational Frontiers: the American West in France (University of Oklahoma, 2018) analyzes appropriations of the American West in France in performance and visual and material culture in the tripartite international relationships between the United States, France, and the Lakota nation between 1867 and 1914. Building on research completed for this book, Burns co-edited (with Agathe Cabau) a special issue on the American West in France for Transatlantica (2019) featuring eight essays, and published articles related to Lakota performers’ intermedia identity constructions. Applying her interests in circulation, she co-edited (with Alice M. Rudy Price), Mapping Impressionist Painting in Transnational Contexts (Routledge, 2021), which combines microhistories on transnational circulations of impressionism and articulates new models for understanding this mobile aesthetic through constellations.

Burns’s research has been supported by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Baird Library Society of Fellows, the Walter Read Hovey Memorial Foundation, the University of Nottingham, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the New England Regional Library Consortium, and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY. She was the 2020-21 Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford and the 2015-16 Terra Foundation for American Art Teaching Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art.

Classes Taught

Dr. Burns offers courses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European and U.S. art, constructions of race in visual culture, the arts of Asia, Introduction to Art History, and Foundations of Art History I.

Representative Publications

Books and Co-edited Publications

Mapping Impressionist Painting in Transnational Contexts, co-ed. with Alice M. Rudy Price. New York: Routledge, 2021.

“Call and Answer: Dialoging the American West in France.” Special issue of Transatlantica comprising 8 essays, co-ed. with Agathe Cabau, published in 2019 as issue 2 of 2017. 

Transnational Frontiers: the American West in France (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2018).


Articles (most recent first)

“Frontier Impressionisms in the United States and Australia.” In Mapping Impressionist Painting in Transnational Contextsed. Emily C. Burns and Alice M. Rudy Price, 49–64. New York: Routledge, 2021.


Siŋté Máza (Iron Tail)'s Image Inversions.” Panorama 6, no. 2 (Fall 2020).


“Hide and Seek: Ellen Emmet Rand, Childhood, and US Art Study in Paris, c. 1898.” In Ellen Emmet Rand: Gender, Art and Business, ed. Alexis M. Boylan, 133–51. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2020.


“‘Nothing but Daubs’: The Translation of Impressionism in the United States.” In Globalizing Impressionism: Reception, Translation, Transnationalism, ed. Alexis Clark and Frances Fowle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020.


“St. Luke’s Chapel, US Artists’ Communities, and Protestantism in Paris, 1891–1914.” In Artistic Migration and Identity in Paris, 1870-1940 / Migration artistique et identité à Paris, 1870-1940, ed. Steven Huebner and Federico Lazzaro, 137–52. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2020.


“Regard voyageur: les peintres américains en France et l’impressionisme américain.” Quand les impressionnistes américains rencontraient les peintres français, ed. Frédérique Thomas-Maurin, 118–55. Ornans: Musée Gustave Courbet, 2020.


“Cultural Belatedness, Singularity and American Impressionism.” In America’s Impressionism: Echoes of a Revolution, by Amanda C. Burdan, 51–63. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020.


Circulating Regalia and Lakota Survivance, c. 1900.” Arts Magazine, 8, no. 146 (2019). 


The Conceivable Global in the European Nineteenth Century.” Nineteenth-Century Studies 31 (2019): 141–46.


“Spectral Figures: Edward Hopper’s Empty Paris.” In Empty Spaces: Confronting Emptiness in National, Cultural and Urban History, ed. Courtney J. Campbell, Allegra Giovine, and Jennifer Keating, 113–34. London: University of London Press, 2019.


“Imperialist Nostalgia or Political Contestation? Cyrus Dallin’s American Indian Equestrian Monuments.” Archives of American Art Journal, 57, no.1 (Spring 2018): 4–21.


“A baby’s unconsciousness” in Sculpture: Modernism, Nationalism, Frederick MacMonnies and George Grey Barnard in fin-de-siècle Paris.” Sculpture Journal 27, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 89–103.


“Art, Ethnography and Politics: the Transnational Context of Bierstadt’s The Last of the Buffalo in Paris.” In Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West, by Peter H. Hassrick, 123–50­­. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2018.


“‘With Eyes Half Shut’: George Grey Barnard, the innocent eye, and American nationalism in Paris.” In Prestige in Modern and Contemporary Sculpture: Modern Sculpture and the Question of Status, ed. Cristina Rodriguez-Samaniego and Irene Gras Valero. Barcelona: Colleccio Singularitats, 2018.


Response to Alexander Nemerov, “Art is Not the Archive.” Archives of American Art Journal, 57 no. 2 (Fall 2018): 67–69. 


“Taming a ‘Savage’ Paris: The Visual Culture of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and France as a new American Frontier.” In The Popular Frontier: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Transnational Mass Culture, ed. Frank Christianson, 129–54. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.


“Perturber les stereotypes: les amérindiens en France, à la fin du XIXsiècle et au début du XXe siècle,” and “Les artistes français et les amérindiens à la fin du XIXsiècle.” In Le Scalp et le Calumet, by Annick Notter, 106–16; 158–69. La Rochelle: Musée du Nouveau Monde, 2017.


“‘Local Color’: Social Art History, Global Impressionism, and Comparative Interpretation.” Questionnaire on Impressionism and the Social History of Art, ed. Alexis Clark, H-France Salon 9, issue 14, #2 (2017): 1–4.


“Wandering Pictures: Locating Cosmopolitanism in Frederick A. Bridgman’s The Funeral of a Mummy on the Nile.” In Locating American Art: Finding Art’s Meaning in Museums, Colonial Period to the Present, ed. Cynthia Fowler, 109–24. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2016.


Fata Morgana: Jean-André Castaigne, the American Indian, and American Artistic Aspirations in France.” Panorama 2, no. 1 (Summer 2016).


“Belatedness, Artlessness and American Culture in fin-de-siècle France.” Americans in Paris colloquy, ed. Natalia Cecire, Arcade: Literature, the Humanities & the World, Stanford University, March 4, 2016.


“Of a Kind Hitherto Unknown’: The American Art Association of Paris in 1908.” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 14, no. 1 (Spring 2015).


“The Itinerant John Mix Stanley and the Circulating Spectacle of the West in Mid-Century America.” In Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley, by Peter H. Hassrick and Mindy A. Besaw, 1-31. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015.


“Revising Bohemia: The American Artist Colony in Paris, 1890-1914.” Foreign Artists and Communities in Modern Paris, 1870-1914: Strangers in Paradise, ed. Karen L. Carter and Susan Waller, 186–209. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2015.


“Puritan Parisians: American Art Students in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris.” In A Seamless Web: Transatlantic Art in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Cheryll May and Marian Wardle, 123–46. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Press Scholars, 2014.


“The Old World Anew: The Atlantic as the Liminal Site of Expectations.” In Framing the Ocean, 1700 to the Present: Envisaging the Sea as Social Space, ed. Tricia Cusack, 37–54. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2014.

Last Updated: June 24, 2021