Maggie M. Cao, 2021–22

Project Title:

Painting and the Making of American Empire‚ 1830­–1898

Allen W. Clowes Fellowship; Kent R. Mullikin Fellowship, 2021-22

Assistant Professor of Art History and David G. Frey Fellow in American Art, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Cao, Maggie

Maggie M. Cao is assistant professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a scholar of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American art in a global context. She works on the history of globalization with particular interest in intersections of art with histories of technology, natural science, and economics. Her first book, The End of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century America (University of California Press, 2018) examines the dissolution of landscape painting as a major cultural project in the late nineteenth-century United States and argues that landscape is the genre through which American artists most urgently sought to come to terms with modernity. Cao has also written on media theory, material culture, and ecocriticism. Her recent publications include essays on the print culture of the earliest worldwide financial bubbles and the materiality of export art made in eighteenth-century China.

Cao is currently at work on a book entitled Painting and the Making of American Empire, 18301898, the first synthetic treatment of nineteenth-century art and empire in the global context. The project offers revisionist readings of globally-themed art including history paintings of the colonial past, landscapes of polar expedition and tropical tourism, still-lifes of imported goods, and ethnographic portraiture. The book aims to connect historic American paintings to the flows of commodities and peoples through colonial systems and infrastructures in the decades leading up to formal U.S. colonization in 1898. It also tackles the legacy of American imperialism, connecting the metropolitan, Euro-American painters of the past with the more racially diverse global artists of the present.

Selected Publications

The End of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century America

  • Cao, Maggie M. “Playing Parrot: American Trompe L’oeil and Empire.” Art Bulletin 103, no. 3 (Fall 2021): 97-114.
  • Cao, Maggie M. “Trompe L’oeil and Financial Risk in the Age of Paper.” Grey Room 78 (Winter 2020): 6-33.
  • Cao, Maggie M. The End of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018.
  • Cao, Maggie M. “The Entropic History of Ice.” In Ecologies, Agencies, Terrains, edited by Christopher Heuer, and Rebecca Zorac, 266-91. New Haven: Yale University Press and Clark Studies in the Visual Arts, 2018.
  • Cao, Maggie M. “Copying in Reverse: China Trade Paintings on Glass.” In Beyond Chinoiserie: Artistic Exchange between China and the West during the Late Qing Dynasty (1796-1911), edited by Jennifer Milam, and Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, 72-92. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
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