Marni Kessler


Marni Kessler headshot
  • Professor, Nineteenth-Century European Art
  • Director of Graduate Studies
She/her/hers

Contact Info

209-E Spencer Museum of Art

Biography

Marni Kessler specializes in French art of the long nineteenth century. Her research, like her teaching, is characterized by a focus on the material agency of works of art, engagement with critical theories like ecocriticism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology, and attention to historical context. Prior to coming to KU in 2000, Kessler held a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University, was a Luther Gregg Sullivan Post-Doctoral Fellow and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Art History Department at Wesleyan, a visiting lecturer Yale University, and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Barnard College.

Kessler’s current work emphasizes the ecocritical possibilities of late nineteenth-century French art. Her recent book, Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art (University of Minnesota Press, 2021), analyzes the ways in which representations of food may be uniquely evocative, conveying material and immaterial possibilities that far exceed their seemingly mundane subject matter. Arguing that works by Manet, Caillebotte, Vollon, and Degas that may superficially conjure gustatory pleasure are inscribed by countervailing arcs of loss, melancholy, and anxiety, she establishes new ways of thinking about images that have traditionally been relegated to the genre of still life. Kessler’s first book, Sheer Presence: The Veil in Manet’s Paris (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), examines the visual, material, historical, cultural, and theoretical significance of the representation of the veil in late nineteenth-century French painting, photography, and popular imagery. Kessler has also published articles and book chapters on issues related to fashion, food, photography, gender, urbanism, and portraiture in late nineteenth-century French visual culture.

Kessler teaches a range of lecture courses and graduate seminars on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art as well as a theories and methods graduate seminar. Thinking critically about diverse perspectives, the environment, transnationality, and global intersections, her classes explore the rich possibilities inherent in visual culture. Kessler is currently accepting graduate students with interests in the long nineteenth century and critical theories

Education

Ph.D. in History of Art, Yale University, 1996
M.A. in History of Art, Yale University, 1991
M.A. in Art History, Williams College, 1989
B.A. in English, Vassar College, 1987

Teaching

Lecture courses:
Gender and Revolution: European Art 1789-1848
Modernisms: Manet-Cézanne
​Introduction to Modern Art: 1789 to the Present
Survey of Western Art: Renaissance to the Present
19th-Century European Art
Rococo-Realism: European Painting 1750-1848
Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: Art in France 1848-1900

Graduate Seminars:
Profiling: The Portrait in Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture
The Spectacle of Fashion: Mme de Pompadour to Mme Cézanne
Women in Visual Culture in Late 19th-Century France
Art Histories: Theories and Methods
Manet in Contexts
Ingres/Degas: Surface/Text
Constructing and Deconstructing 19th-Century Paris
The Modern Portrait
Paris: Urban text and Visual Representation
The Matter of Still Life

Selected Publications

Books:

Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2021.
Interview about Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art: Rorotoko: Cutting-Edge Intellectual Interviews
Book talk and conversation with Professor Janet Beizer (Harvard University) about Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association New Book Zoom series via webcast on March 5, 2021 (Link to watch replay)
Book talk, Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art, “Meet KU’s Authors” series, Hall Center for the Humanities and Lawrence Public Library, via webcast on April 28, 2021 (Link to watch replay)

Sheer Presence: The Veil in Manet's Paris. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
Awarded: 2006 Millard Meiss Book Subvention Grant, College Art Association and 2006 Vice-Provost for Research Book Subvention Award, University of Kansas; Nominated: 2007 CAA Charles Rufus Morey Book Award and 2008 Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies.

Articles/Book Chapters:

"Degas's Breath and the Materiality of Pastel Veils." Dix-Neuf: Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes 25, no. 3-4 (Winter 2022): 260-279. Special issue "New Directions in Nineteenth-Century French Studies"

"Berthe Morisot in Mourning.” Yale Journal of French Studies 139 (Fall-Winter 2021): 67-84. Special issue "Photography and the Body"

“Beyond the Shadow of the Veil: Claude Monet's The Beach at Trouville,” Fashion, Modernity, and Materiality in France: From Rousseau to Art Déco ed. Heidi Brevik-Zender (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018) 135-155.

"At the Threshold: Fairfield Porter's Night, Transitions, and the Steadiness of Friendship," invited chapter for Inspired: Essays in Honor of Susan Kuretsky eds. Elizabeth Nogrady and Joanna Sheers Seidenstein (Poughkeepsie, NY: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Gallery, Vassar College, 2018) 114-121.

"Vuillard Chez Natanson: The Luncheon, Misia's Hair, and Édouard's Cantaloupe," Nineteenth-Century Contexts 40:3 (May 2018) 1-23.

"Édouard Manet’s Ham and Suzanne’s Lost Body in Edgar Degas’ Salon," Contemporary French Civilization special Issue “Beyond Gastronomy: French Food Culture for the 21st Century,” eds. Michael Garval and Philippe Dubois, 42:3-4 (winter 2018) 279-300.

"Edgar Degas's Princess Pauline de Metternich and the Phenomenological Swirl," in Perspectives on Degas ed. Kathryn Brown (London: Routledge Press, 2017) 135-150.

"Parsing Edgar Degas's Le Pédicure," Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 13:2 (Fall 2014): unpaginated.

Selected Presentations

"Digging Into Edouard Manet's Brioche and Pears," The Richard R. Brettell Lecture, Dallas Museum of Art, April 28, 2022

"Berthe Morisot and the Materiality of Longing," Woman/Artist symposium, Yale University, December 2-4, 2021

"Berthe Morisot's Deaths," Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association, The George Washington and Georgetown Universities, Washington, DC, October 2021

Book talk, Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art, “Meet KU’s Authors” series, Hall Center for the Humanities and Lawrence Public Library, via webcast on April 28, 2021 (Link to watch replay)

Book talk and conversation with Professor Janet Beizer (Harvard University) about Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association Featured Author Zoom series, March 5, 2021. (Link to watch replay)

“Clarifying and Compounding Antoine Vollon’s Mound of Butter,” Zoom lecture, Romance Languages and Literatures Department, Harvard University, October 19, 2020.

“Materializing Veils in Degas’s Three Women at the Races,” “Veiling the Body” Conference, Manchester University, June 11-12, 2020 (via Zoom due to COVID-19).

“The Fruits of Manet’s Labors,” The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los, Angeles, CA, November 3, 2019.

“Antoine Vollon’s Mound of Butter and the Aesthetics of Melting,” public lecture, Department of Romance Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, April 11, 2019.

“Berthe Morisot’s Family Pictures and their Discontents,” Dallas Museum of Art, Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist symposium, March 28-30, 2019.

“Not in the Flesh: What we REALLY do when we teach with images,” “Teaching the Visual” pedagogical roundtable, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association, UC Riverside/Scripps College, November 2018.

“Picturing Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” Figge Art Museum, October 14, 2018.

"Melting Materiality and Antoine Vollon's Mound of Butter," Food and Decay conference, Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London, June 22, 2018.

"Stirring the Copper Pot: Édouard Manet's Fish (Still Life)," Art History Department, Temple University, April 3, 2018.

“Picturing Paris: Urbanism and Modernism in the Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” Wichita Art Museum, March 6, 2018.

"Misia's BIG Hair and Vuillard's Melon," Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association, University of Virginia, November 2017.

"Mapping Oranges, Pears, Figs, Quince, Apples, Tomatoes, and Grapes: Gustave Caillebotte's Fruit Displayed on a Stand," Keynote address, European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art, Musueum Aan De Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium, June 8-9, 2017.

"Materializing Veils and the Condition of Seeing in Degas's Three Women at the Races," Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade Exhibition Symposium, Saint Louis Art Museum, April 2017.

"Gustave Caillebotte's Fruit Displayed on a Stand and the Urban Grid," Food and Architecture Symposium, French Department, Vassar College, April 2017.

“Degas, Photography, and Restoration, or Staging Manet’s Ham,” College Art Association, New York, NY, February 2017.

Awards & Honors

New York Public Library Food Studies Fellowship, 2016-2017

Hall Center for the Humanities Research Fellowship, University of Kansas, research leave Fall 2016

Schlesinger Library Research Grant, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Hardvard University, 2013-2014

Countway Fellowship in the History of Medicine, Harvard and Boston Medical Libraries, 2011-2012

Hall Center for the Humanities Travel Grant, University of Kansas, 2008-2009

Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellowship in the Medical Humanities, New York Academy of Medicine, 2007-2008

James E. Seaver Lecturer, Humanities and Western Civilizations Program, University of Kansas, February 2007

Millard Meiss Book Subvention Grant, College Art Association, for book: Sheer Presence: The Veil in Manet's Paris (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006)

Outstanding Educator, University of Kansas Torch Chapter of the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, Fall 2005

Vice-Provost for Research Book Subvention Award, University of Kansas, for book: Sheer Presence: The Veil in Manet's Paris (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006)

Service

Professional Experience

Professor, University of Kansas, Kress Foundation Department of Art History, Fall 2020-Present
Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Kress Foundation Department of Art History, Fall 2007-Fall 2020
Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Kress Foundation Department of Art History, Fall 2000-Spring 2007
Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate Liberal Studies Program, Wesleyan University, Spring 2000
Visiting Lecturer, Yale University, Falls 1998 and 1999
Visiting Assistant Professor, Wesleyan University, Fall 1998-Spring 1999
Visiting Assistant Professor, Barnard College, Fall 1996-Spring 1997
Instructor and Prize Teaching Fellow, Yale University, Fall 1994-Spring 1995

 

Ph.D. Dissertations Directed

Rozanne Stringer, "Hybrid Zones: Representations of Race in Late Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture," 2011.

Heather Jensen, "Portraitists à la Plume: Women Art Critics in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France," 2007.

Temma Balducci, "Destabilizing Separate Spheres in Early Third Republic French Painting," 2005.