Aaron Douglas, illustration for God’s Trombones
by James Weldon Johnson (1927)

One of my newest research projects focuses on artists’ books of the Harlem Renaissance. My project is made possible by a 2021 Paul Mellon Visiting Senior Fellowship at the the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts (Washington DC). I seek to show how the study of illustrated books challenges key conceptions of the Harlem Renaissance’s legacy and to demonstrate the significance of the movement’s graphic production for later generations of artists. The project will argue that book objects extended the social and spacial imaginary of the Harlem Renaissance and became important staging grounds for debates about pan-African identity, cosmopolitanism, and Anglo-European relations. These complex experiments in the relationship between word and image have had a lasting impact on the role of print culture in civil rights activism.

The Art Book Tradition in Twentieth-Century Europe: Picturing Language, (ed.) Kathryn Brown (Ashgate, 2013).

Art Book Tradition in Twentieth-Century Europe

Investigating the complex history of visual art’s engagement with literature, this collection demonstrates that the art of the book is a fully interdisciplinary and distinctly modern form. The essays in the collection develop new critical approaches to the analysis of twentieth-century bookworks and explore ways in which European writers and painters challenged the boundary between visual and linguistic expression in the content, production, and physical form of books. The Art Book Tradition in Twentieth-Century Europe offers a detailed examination of word-image relations in forms ranging from the livre d’artiste to personal diaries and almanacs. It analyzes innovative attempts to challenge familiar hierarchies between texts and images, to fuse different expressive media, and to reconceptualize traditional notions of ekphrasis. Giving consideration to the material qualities of books, the works discussed in this collection also test and celebrate the act of reading, while locating it in the context of other sensory experiences. Essays examine works by Dufy, Matisse, Beckett, Kandinsky, Braque, and Ponge, among other European artists and writers active during the twentieth century.

The book has been reviewed in Image & Narrative, French Studies, SHARP Newsletter, and by the Art Libraries Society of North America.

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Related Publications on intermediality and artists’ books include:

Livre d’artiste“. The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 04 August 2017.


‘An “Anti-Spectacular” Art: Degas’s Monotypes for La Famille Cardinal’, in Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2016), pp. 122­–25.

‘Framing Disaster: Word and Image in Tacita Dean’s The Russian Ending’, in the Journal of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2016).

‘Intimacy and Exclusion: Degas’s Monotypes for La Famille Cardinal’ in Perspectives on Degas, (ed.) Kathryn Brown (Routledge, 2016).

‘Egyptian Voyages: Gustave Flaubert, Maxime Du Camp, and Fouad Elkoury’ in History of Photography (Taylor & Francis), 38 (2), May, 2014, pp. 161–72.

‘Remembering the Occupation: La Mort et les statues by Pierre Jahan and Jean Cocteau’, Forum for Modern Language Studies (Oxford University Press), 49 (3), 2013, pp. 286–99.

‘Influence as Appropriation of the Creative Gesture: Matisse’s Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans’ in (eds), Thomas Baldwin, James Fowler and Ana de Medeiros, Questions of Influence in Modern European Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 84–97.

‘Enacting Beauty: Baudelaire, Matisse, and Les Fleurs du mal’ in K. Brown (ed.), The Art Book Tradition in Twentieth–Century Europe (2013, Ashgate), pp. 31–44.

‘The Book as Object and Event in the Works of John Latham’, The International Journal of the Book, vol. 6 (2009), 23–34.

Édouard Manet, Illustration for Stéphane Mallarmé’s translation of
Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ (1875).