Gordon Hughes

Gordon Hughes specializes in early 20th-Century European modernism, with a particular concentration on French painting. His book, Resisting Abstraction: Robert Delaunay and Vision in the Face of Modernism, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2014. Hughes's primary area of research aims to rethink standard narratives of abstract painting at the point of its inception, with a particular emphasis on French painting. His work on Robert Delaunay has been published in October (Fall 2002), The Art Bulletin (June 2007), Critical Matrix (Fall 2001), and appeared in the catalogue for the exhibition Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has also published on the paintings and film of Fernand Léger and the still-lifes of Georges Braque. In addition to pre-war European art, Hughes also writes on American art of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Publications in this area include essays on Douglas Huebler and Jenny Holzer. A recent essay on Roland Barthes and photography, "Camera Lucida Circa 1980," appeared in Palinode: Reflections on Camera Lucida, edited by Geoffrey Batchen (MIT Press, 2009). He also co-edited, with Hal Foster, October Files: Richard Serra (MIT Press, 2000). In 2012-2013 he was a scholar in residence at the Getty Research Institute. His current book project is titled: Seeing Red: Murder, Abstraction, Machines.

Prior to receiving his Ph.D. in art history from Princeton in 2004, Hughes earned a Master degree from the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario in 1996. His engagement with continental theory continues to inform his writing and thinking about art, although it is always in the service of the primary act of viewing. This concern with close looking orients his approach to teaching, which takes uncovering and describing the vast complexities of artistic form-and the ways in which these complexities intersect with history and theory-as the central problem of art historical investigation.

Originally trained as a visual artist, Hughes received his MFA in studio art from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1992, and his BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1989. He was raised in Carp, Ontario.


Richard Serra: Vertical and Horizontal Reversals (Göttingen: David Zwirner Books, 2015)

Resisting Abstraction: Robert Delaunay and Vision in the Face of Modernism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Nothing But the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War One, Editor with Philipp Blom (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute Press, 2014)

October Files: Richard Serra. Editor, with Hal Foster (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000)

Selected Articles and Essays

“In the Continuity of Painting Itself,” Nonsite, vol. 1, no. 37 (February 2022).

“Fernand Léger’s Cinema of Pictorial Equivalence (and The Return to Disorder), Oxford Art Journal, vol. 44, no. 1 (March 2021). 

“The Coxcomb and the Skeptical Critic; Or, Must We Mean What We See?,” Plat, vol. 1no. 10 (April 2021).

“Hartung’s Attack,” in Hans Hartung: 1923-1989 (Paris: Perrotin Editions, 2018).

“Francis Picabia, Once Removed,” in Anne Umland and Catherine Hug, eds. Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction (New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016). (Translated into French as “Francis Picabia, au deuxième degré” in Francis Picabia: Notre tête est ronde pour permettre à la pensée de changer de direction).

“Tangled Up in Blue: James Turrell’s Virtual Vision” Nonsite 18 (January, 2016).

“The Painter’s Revenge: Fernand Léger For and Against Cinema.” Nonsite 6 (October 2012).

“Braque’s Regard.” In Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928-1945, ed. Karen Butler. (New York: Prestel), 2013. Catalogue for exhibition at the Kemper Art Museum and the Phillips Collection.

“Abstraction Chez Delaunay.” In Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925, ed. Leah Dickerman. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

“Re: Re: Post.” In Beyond the Aesthetic and Anti-Aesthetic, ed. James Elkins. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2013.

“Exit Ghost: Douglas Huebler’s Face Value.” Art History (December 2009). Reprinted in Photography After Conceptual Art, eds. Diarmuid Costello and Margaret Iversen. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Camera Lucida Circa 1980.” In Palinode: Reflections on Camera Lucida, ed. Geoffrey Batchen. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

“Game Face: Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture.” Art Journal (Winter 2007-2008).

“Envisioning Abstraction: The Simultaneity Robert Delaunay’s First Disk.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 89, no. 2, (June 2007).

“Power’s Script: Or, Jenny Holzer’s Art after ‘Art After Philosophy.’” Oxford Art Journal vol. 29, no. 3 (October 2006).

“Hal Foster.” In Art: Key Contemporary Thinkers, eds. Diarmuid Costello and Jonathan Vickery. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2006.

“Coming into Sight: Seeing Robert Delaunay’s Structure of Vision.” October 102 (Fall 2002).

“The Painter of Mental Scenery: Robert Delaunay’s Sensory Abstraction.” Critical Matrix 12 (Fall 2001).

“In-Graven Images: The Work of Matthew Girson and Mindy Yan Miller.” New Art Examiner (April 1997).

Research Areas

Twentieth-century art; contemporary art; history of photography


Ph.D. Princeton University

M.A. University of Western Ontario

M.F.A. University of Illinois, Chicago

B.F.A. Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

Honors & Awards

2012-2013 - Scholar in Residence, Getty Research Institute

2011 - Barr Ferree Foundation Publication Fund

2010 - Terra Foundation for American Art


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