Penn has a long tradition of supporting graduate study in the arts of the United States between the eighteenth century and the present. Several members of the faculty collaborate in teaching and advising students in this field.
David Brownlee’s publications range from the monumental architecture and city planning of the Progressive Era to the work of Louis Kahn and Venturi, Scott, Brown. His long-standing interest in Philadelphia has generated studies of the architecture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. Michael Leja’s work encompasses early mass-produced images, skeptical forms of seeing engendered in modern life and art circa 1900, and the re-imagining of self in which Abstract Expressionist painting was engaged. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw has explored issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class in the art of Kara Walker, Sargent Johnson, and in nineteenth-century portraits of African-Americans. Kathleen Foster, Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is Adjunct Professor at Penn; among her areas of expertise are the art of Thomas Eakins and Thomas Chambers, academic realism, and landscape painting.
Several of the faculty specializing in Modern and Contemporary Art and Cinema Studies, including Karen Redrobe and Kaja Silverman, also work on American materials. See the "Contemporary Art" page for details.
Penn and the city of Philadelphia hold tremendous resources for students of the art and architecture of the United States. The collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Library Company, Free Library, and numerous other institutions are unsurpassed. At Penn, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies conducts an active program fostering interdisciplinary study.