Michelle Foa, Ph.D., joined the faculty of Tulane University’s Department of Art in 2008. As an associate professor of art history, Foa focuses on French art and visual and material culture of the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Her first book, Georges Seurat: The Art of Vision, which was published in 2015 by Yale University Press, situates the artist’s body of work as a sustained exploration of different forms of visual and mental engagement with the outside world. She places particular emphasis on Seurat’s investigation of the relationship between vision and knowledge, interpreting his work in close relation to 19th-century scientific debates on the operation of the senses and their role in how we come to understand our surroundings. She is currently working on a second book on Edgar Degas that analyzes the artist’s constant experimentation with diverse modes of picture- and object-making in the broader context of discourses on matter and materiality in later 19th-century France. Other research interests include the materials of art, Europe’s global encounters in the 18th and 19th centuries, the relationship between art, science, and technology, and art historiography and criticism.
Foa is the lead faculty member for a new 360-degree course titled “Environmental Perspectives: An Interdisciplinary Approach,” for which she received a major grant from the Carol Lavin Bernick Family Foundation. She designed and co-teaches the course, which counts as an elective towards the SISE minor, with faculty in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Architecture, and Sociology. She recently taught a new interdisciplinary course titled “The Meaning of Materials,” for which she was also awarded a Lavin Bernick Grant as well as a William L. Duren ’26 Professorship. As a Social Entrepreneurship Professor, Foa looks forward to serving as a bridge between the Taylor Center and the arts on campus. She will continue working with students to explore how works of art address the pressing social and environmental challenges of their time and place.
Foa completed her doctorate in 2008 at Princeton University. She has taught at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton.
Foa holds the Carnegie Corporation of New York Professorship of Social Entrepreneurship from 2019-2022.