Kathleen Pierce

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art

Headshot of Visiting Professor Kathleen Pierce

Contact & Office Hours

Spring 2021
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. - noon
Or by appointment.


Contact by email to schedule an appointment.


Ph.D., Rutgers University


Kathleen Pierce received her doctorate in art history from Rutgers University in 2019. At Smith College, Pierce teaches courses on the art and visual culture of the long 19th century. Her pedagogy emphasizes how images construct 19th-century understandings of race, gender, health and power, and she encourages students to recognize how this thinking continues to permeate contemporary culture.

Pierce’s research explores intersections of art and medicine in the 19th- and early 20th-century French empire. She is in the process of revising her dissertation for publication as a book, tentatively titled Surface Tension: Skin, Disease, and Visuality in Fin-de-Siècle French Image Making. The project examines a broad range of objects—from dermatological illustrations and wax-cast models, to public health posters and Cubist painting and collage—to elucidate relationships between pathological skin and the surface of modern art. The project reveals shared modes of conceptualizing and visualizing the surface across the spheres of medicine, public health and artistic production. It also illuminates historically specific modes of understanding the rise of the modernist surface in the early 20th century. Her research has previously been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University.

Selected Publications


“Photograph as Skin, Skin as Wax: Indexicality and the Visualisation of Syphilis in Fin-de-Siècle France,” Medical History 64, no. 1 (2020): 116-141.

“Scarified Skin and Simian Symptoms: Experimental Medicine and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 17, no. 2 (2018).

Public Scholarship

“Are Our Genes Really Our Fate? DNA’s Visual Culture and the Construction of Genetic Truth,” Nursing Clio (2018).