Angela Vanhaelen


Professor Vanhaelen specializes in the study of seventeenth-century Dutch visual culture. Current research projects include: early modern exhibitions of automata, clocks, hydraulics, and waxworks; Dutch garden and landscape architecture in a global context; boredom and Dutch realism; genre painting as a point of interface between private and public life.

Her book, The Wake of Iconoclasm: Painting the Church in the Dutch Republic (Penn State University Press, 2012) was awarded the Roland H. Bainton Book Prize by the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference. The book explores the fraught relationship between art and religion after the reformation, when sacred imagery was stripped from the churches. Taking up the history of painting in the aftermath of iconoclasm, it reassesses the pictorial strategies of realism in relation to the religious and political diversity of the Dutch cities.

Vanhaelen’s first book, Comic Print and Theatre in Early Modern Amsterdam: Gender, childhood and the city (Ashgate, 2003), investigates shifts in the popular culture traditions of late seventeenth-century Amsterdam, particularly the ways that inexpensive printed imagery redefined key urban spaces and generated new practices of everyday life.

Vanhaelen is co-editor, with Bronwen Wilson (UCLA) of a special issue of the journal Art History titled The Erotics of Looking: Materiality, Solicitation and Netherlandish Visual Culture (November 2012). Exploring complex interrelations between making, displaying, and engaging with paintings and prints, the volume brings forward mechanisms through which visual imagery fostered new forms of association in early modern Europe.

Professor Vanhaelen is co-editor with Joseph Ward (University of Mississippi) of Making Space Public in Early Modern Europe: Performance, Geography, Privacy (Routledge, 2013). This collection of essays is the second of two volumes resulting from a Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI), funded by SSHRC: "Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700". The book examines the how the spatial dynamics of public making changed the shape of early modern society, as cultural producers and consumers challenged dominant ideas about just who could enter the public arena, greatly expanding both the real and imaginary spaces of public life to include hitherto excluded groups of private people. Vanhaelen’s contributions to the Making Publics project have also been featured in the CBC Radio series Ideas as Episode 5 “Painting Modernity” of the fourteen episode series “The Origins of the Modern Public”.

Vanhaelen is currently the principal investigator of the research initiative, “Making Worlds: Art, Materiality and Early Modern Globalization,” a 5-year project based at McGill and supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: Making Worlds aims to investigate early modernity’s expanding image of the world by focusing on artistic creativity, and the ways in which imagining, digesting and translating worlds, broadly construed, have been central to their making and remaking. 

Professor Vanhaelen is also a co-investigator in a SSHRC Partnership Grant, “Early Modern Conversions: Religions, cultures, cognitive ecologies” (, a five-year project that aims to develop an historical understanding of conversion that will enlighten modern debates about corporeal, sexual, psychological, political, and spiritual kinds of transformation. The project is partnered with eighteen research centres in Canada, USA, England, and Australia, and counts among its members international scholars, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, artists, musicians, and members of the public.

Other publications include:

“Boredom’s Threshold: Dutch Realism”, Art History, vol. 35, no. 5, November 2012, 1004-1023.

 “The Erotics of Looking: Materiality, Solicitation and Netherlandish Visual Culture”, Art History, vol. 35, no. 5, November 2012, 874-885 (co-authored with Bronwen Wilson).

 “Publishing the Private in Dutch Comic Culture”, History Compass, vol. 10, issue 9, September 2012, 652-666.

“Recomposing the Body Politic in Seventeenth-century Delft”, Oxford Art Journal. Vol. 31, no. 3, 2008, pp. 361-381.

“Utrecht’s Transformations: Claiming the Dom through Representation, Iconoclasm and Ritual”De Zeventiende Eeuw. December 2005: 354-374.

“Iconoclasm and the Creation of Images in Emanuel de Witte’s Old Church in Amsterdam, Art Bulletin. Vol. LXXXVII, no. 2, June 2005: 249-264.

“Local Sites, Foreign Sights: A Sailor’s Sketchbook of Human and Animal Curiosities in Early Modern Amsterdam”, RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics. Vol. 45, Spring 2004: 256-272.

Street Life in London and the Organization of Labour”, History of Photography. Vol. 26, no. 3, Autumn 2002: 191-204.

Professor Vanhaelen’s teaching overlaps with her research interests. She offers courses on early modern art and visual culture (1500–1700), historiography, methodology, and theory. She supervises graduate and postdoctoral students who specialize in early modern art and visual culture.

Graduate Seminars taught:

  • 2017: Caravaggio, Caravaggisti, Caravaggio-mania: Painting the Destruction of Painting
  • 2013, 2015: The Moving Image
  • 2011: Advanced Pro-Seminar: Historiography and Methodology
  • 2010: Between Worlds: Visual Strategies and Cross-cultural Mediations
  • 2009: Boredom
  • 2008: Making Publics / Producing Spaces
  • 2007: The Disenchantment of Vision
  • 2006: Iconoclasm and the Re-formation of Art
  • 2005: Print and Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe
  • 2004: Advanced Pro-Seminar, "Space in Art History"
  • 2003: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life