Photo by David Noles
Bridget Alsdorf is a historian of European art from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century. Her work explores the central role played by artists in illuminating problems of broad philosophical import; the social nature of artistic creation and form; the cross-fertilization of artistic media, including literature, theater, and film; and the capacity of visual art to comment on the world differently, and sometimes more trenchantly, than words. She is Professor in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow.
Alsdorf is the author of Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting (2013), a study of the fraught dynamic between individual and group in some of the most ambitious paintings of the realist and impressionist generation, including works by Courbet, Manet, Degas, Bazille, Renoir, and (most extensively) Fantin-Latour. Her recent book, Gawkers: Art and Audience in Late Nineteenth-Century France (2022), explores how Vallotton, Bonnard, Daumier, the Lumière brothers, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others represented the seductions and horrors of urban life through the eyes of curious viewers known as badauds. Positioning these gawkers as the flip side of the singular and aloof bourgeois flâneur, the book excavates a subject of deep significance in late nineteenth-century French culture, as a motif in works of art and as a conflicted model of the modern viewer.
Alsdorf serves on the editorial board of nonsite, where she co-edits a series of issues on nineteenth-century art with Marnin Young. She received her B.A. from Yale and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. In between, she worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Her research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program, the Luce Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation. On sabbatical through August 2024, she is currently Old Dominion Research Professor in the Humanities Council at Princeton.