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Mary Hunter

Assistant Professor

Mary Hunter specializes in nineteenth-century French art and visual culture, and teaches on the politics of representation from the nineteenth century to the present. Her research focuses on: the relationship between art and medicine; the construction of reality; the competing claims to truth made by different media and formal practices; the formation of identities; the construction of sexuality, gender, race, sickness and health; the relationship between popular, artistic and scientific spectacles; and the politics of looking.

Hunter is currently working on a manuscript titled Collecting Bodies: Art, Medicine and Sexuality in late Nineteenth-Century Paris. This book explores where, how and why the worlds of art and medicine overlapped during the Third Republic. Through an examination of sources surrounding the production, display and receptions of medical iconography, such as Salon portraits, photographs, medical wax models and representations of medical innovations in the popular press, Hunter looks at how artists and doctors worked together to create realistic representations of bodies. By bringing together and examining various materials - medical text books, artists’ manuals, paintings, encyclopedias, doctors’ letters and meeting notes, caricatures, dictionaries, novels, professional purchases, newspapers, art reviews, and, importantly, the multiple objects found in medical museums and hospitals, such as wax models, painted portraits, photographs, plaster casts, marble busts and drawings – Hunter explores what is at stake in the relationship between art and medical iconography.  This research has been funded by the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, an Insight Development Grant from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Société et Culture.

Mary Hunter is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill.  She earned a B.A (hons) in Art History from Queen’s University, Kingston (1998), and her M.A (2000) and PhD (2007) from University College London.  Before joining McGill in September 2007, Hunter was editorial assistant at the Oxford Art Journal and was the Helfand Fellow at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Selected Publications:

“Medical Masculinity and Sleeping Beauties:  Identity and Sexuality in Henri Gervex’s Avant l’Opération” Gender Scripts in Medicine and Narrative, eds. Angela Laflen and Marcelline Block (Cambridge Scholars Publishing Collection, 2010), pp. 32-63.

“’Effroyable Réalisme’: Wax, Femininity and the Madness of Realist Fantasies”, RACAR, special issue on medical representation and visual culture, vol. 33, no. 1-2, 2008, pp. 43-58.

“Science Uncovered” Oxford Art Journal, vol. 32, no. 1, 2009.  Review essay on current publications on art and science with a focus on Jennifer Tucker’s Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science and Barbara Larson’s The Dark Side of Nature: Science, Society, and the Fantastic in the Work of Odilon Redon.


During the academic year 2012-2013, Professor Hunter will be teaching: a graduate seminar on representations of sick women and the re-thinking of feminist art histories; a 300-level lecture course “Realism and Impressionism (beyond mugs, calendars and umbrellas)”; and an undergraduate seminar on the visual culture of work and leisure in nineteenth-century France.