Assistant Professor of Art History
American Art and Architecture - on leave 2018-19
Rachel Stephens joined the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Alabama as Assistant Professor in 2013. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century American art, specifically antebellum southern art; race, representation and slavery; and Jacksonian-era portraiture. Her book, Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture, published in June 2018 with the University of South Carolina Press, explores the critical role of Earl and his dozens of portraits of Jackson within the circle and career of Old Hickory. Her current book project investigates the implications of abolitionism and pro-slavery justification on antebellum visual culture. Dr. Stephens was a Tyson Fellow at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in the fall of 2018 and a fellow at Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center in the spring of 2019. Stephens is an active member of SECAC, where she served as Editor-in-chief of Art Inquiries from 2014-2017.
ARH 253: Survey of Western Art II
ARH 374: Art of the American South
ARH 375: 19th-century Art
ARH 376: American Architecture
ARH 377: American Painting and Sculpture
ARH 377: American Art to 1815
ARH 379: American Art 1815 to 1880
ARH 477: Southern Architecture
ARH 477: Slavery and American Art
ARH 477/577: Undergrad/graduate seminar, Archiving Lyon Hall
ARH 550: Graduate seminar in Theory and Methodologies
ARH 575: Graduate seminar in Civil War and American Art
ARH 575: Graduate seminar in Slavery and American Art
Recent and Upcoming Presentations:
November 15, 2018, Food for Thought lecture series, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL, “The Portrait that Created a President: Ralph E. W. Earl’s Andrew Jackson”
October 20, 2018, paper presentation, SECAC, Birmingham, AL, “White Heroes, Loyal Slaves: Pre-Civil War Virginia Paintings and the Origins of the Lost Cause”
September 24, 2018, invited guest lecture, Roanoke College, Virginia, “’Whatever is un-Virginian is Wrong’: Pro-South Paintings on the Eve of the Civil War”
February 23, 2018, Paper presentation, College Art Association, Los Angeles, CA, AHAA-sponsored session, “America is (Still) Hard to See;” Paper: “Seeing the Unseen: Suppression within the Visual Culture of American Slavery.”
April 22, 2017: Speaker, Tennessee Decorative Arts Symposium: “Making a Display: Adelicia Acklen’s Tennessee Family Portraits.”
February 15, 2017: Paper presentation, College Art Association: “From Invisible Slave to Comforting Mammy: The Evolution of Nursemaid Imagery in Nineteenth-Century American Art,” New York, N.Y.
Spring 2019, Gilder-Lehrman Center, Yale University 4-month Faculty Fellowship
Fall 2018, Tyson Scholars Fellowship, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
2017 Breaux Fellowship, Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky
2017 Mellon Research Fellowship, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
2016 NEH Summer Institute Participant, The Visual Culture of the Civil War and its Aftermath, CUNY, New York
2015 CARSCA grant, The University of Alabama
2015 President’s Faculty Research Award
(co-awardee) 2014 Educator of the Year, Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society
Recent and Upcoming Publications:
“Curious Men and their Curiosities: Ralph E. W. Earl’s Nashville Museum and the Precedent of Charles Willson Peale,” Early American Studies (2018)
Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2018
“‘Making a Display’: Adelicia Acklen’s Tennessee Family Portraits,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly LXXVI:1 (Spring 2017): 80-102.
Review of Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (Chicago, 2015) in Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 3:2 (Fall 2017).
“Exhibition Review of Purchased Lives and To Be Sold,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art (Fall 2015).
“Portraits of Early Tennesseans by Ralph E.W. Earl: A Case Study in Southern Art,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly LXXIII:3 (November 2014): 178-208.
Watch a video of Dr. Stephens describing her teaching and research:
In a 2017 article on President Andrew Jackson and comparisons with President Donald Trump, Rachel Stephens was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor about Jackson’s portrait artist and her area of expertise, Ralph E. W. Earl.
Ph.D., University of Iowa (2010)
M.A., Art History, Vanderbilt University
B.A. Art History, The University of the South: Sewanee