Art, Art History, and Film Faculty

Oliver Wunsch

Assistant Professor, Art History


Oliver Wunsch’s research and teaching focus on European and American art in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He has a background as a painter and printmaker, and much of his research deals with the history of artistic techniques.

His first book, titled A Delicate Matter: Art, Fragility, and Consumption in Eighteenth-Century France, was published by Pennsylvania State University Press in 2024. It examines the unprecedented proliferation of physically unstable art  in eighteenth-century France, from oil paintings that cracked within years of their creation to pastel portraits that were vulnerable to the slightest vibration. The book links these material practices to the commercial forces that enabled them, revealing how the rise of consumer culture fundamentally transformed the relationship between art, time, and value.

Wunsch is currently developing a second project about the materiality of skin color in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art.

His research has been supported by fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery in Washington, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome.


Refereed Journal Articles

 “Discriminating Taste: Skin Color and Connoisseurship in Eighteenth-Century France,” H-France Salon 14, no. 8 (2022): 1–12,

 “Rosalba Carriera’s Four Continents and the Commerce of Skin,” Journal18, no. 10 (2020),

“Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s ‘Black Countess’ Identified,” The Burlington Magazine 161, no. 1398 (October 2019): 828–833.   

“Watteau, through the Cracks,” The Art Bulletin 100, no. 2 (June 2018): 37–60.

“Diderot and the Materiality of Posterity,” Early Modern French Studies 40, no. 1 (2018): 63–78.

Book Chapters

“Making up Race: Whiteness, Pinkness, and Pompadour,” in Madame de Pompadour: Painted Pink, ed. A. Cassandra Albinson (Harvard Art Museums / Yale University Press, 2022), 74–85.

“Decay,” in The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, ed. Ethan Lasser (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT: Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press, 2017), 211–21.

 “Time,” in Drawing: The Invention of a Modern Medium, ed. Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Elizabeth Rudy, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums, 2017), 162–71.

Book Reviews

 “Art, Science, and the Body in Early Romanticism,” CAA Reviews,