College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Jennifer Van Horn

Jennifer Van Horn

Jennifer Van Horn

Assistant Professor

Art History: Early American art and material culture

Jennifer Van Horn specializes in the fields of early American visual and material culture.  She teaches courses on eighteenth and nineteenth-century decorative arts, material culture theory and methodology, and the production of historical memory.  She is also associated with the Smithsonian-Mason Masters Degree Program in the History of Decorative Arts.  She is presently at work on a book manuscript, Civility in a New World: Material Culture and the Making of America 1740-1780 which examines the ways that colonists in North American port cities used objects to make themselves more civil. Her new research projects include transatlantic portrait painters, the role of slaves and slavery in shaping early American portraiture, and early American prostheses (dentures and wooden legs.) A graduate of the Winterthur Program and the University of Virginia, Professor Van Horn previously worked at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and has taught at Towson University.

Selected Publications

“’Painting’ Faces and ‘Dressing’ Tables: Concealment in Early Southern Dressing Furniture,” Faces and Places in Early America. Eds., George Boudreau and Margaretta Lovell (in progress)

“The Mask of Civility: Portraits of Colonial Women and the Transatlantic Masquerade,” American Art 23: 3 (Fall 2009): 8-35.

“Samplers, Gentility, and the Middling Sort,” Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture 40:4 (Winter 2005): 219-48.


Courses Taught

Material Culture of the Gilded Age

Women’s Work: Gender and Material Culture Study

The Colonial Revival

The Virginia Plantation Then and Now: Material Life and Interpretation

Recent Presentations

“Portraits of Slaves in a New South” David B. Warren Symposium American Material Culture and the Texas Experience, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bayou Bend, 2017

“’Stealing a glance’: Enslaved Viewers in the Plantation South” College Art Association Annual Conference, 2017

“An Active Absence: Titus Kaphar’s History Making” SECAC Annual Conference, 2016

Invited Presenter, “Re-membering War” Shifting Terrain: Mapping a Transnational American Art History (Terra Symposia on American Art in a Global Context), Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2015

“Matters of Race in Early American Portraiture” Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and Society of Early Americanists’ Joint Meeting, 2015