Leo Costello teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art and studies British art from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. He worked for two years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston before coming to Rice in Fall 2004. His current book, Early Turner: Seen and Unseen in London, 1795-1819 is one of the first studies devoted to the artist’s early career is now under contract with Routledge Press. Early Turner will seek to avoid traditional approaches which have seen this period as either excessively academic and rooted in the past, and instead discover elements of Turner’s modernity already present, not so much in formal ways that anticipate later works but in terms of his engagement with the changing political world around. Dr. Costello is also the co-curator (with Sarah Wilson) of the exhibition “Raymond Mason: To Speak of Everything,” opening at the New York Studio School in January 2023. This fall he also published an essay on the contemporary British photographer Duncan Ganley.

Dr. Costello's first book, J.M.W. Turner and the Subject of History, was published in June 2012. Dr. Costello's work on Turner's Slave-ship was published in the literary anthology Discourses of Slavery and Abolition (Palgrave, 2004). He also contributed to the catalog for the retrospective exhibition J.M.W. Turner, organized by Tate Britain (2007). Other recent publications include:  “Series Paintings: Turner, Exhibition and the Thames Estuary 1808-10,” in Colnaghi Studies 5 (October 2019): pp. 111-25; “Power, Destruction and Creativity in Turner’s Fires,” 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, December 2017, https://19.bbk.ac.uk/articles/10.16995/ntn.791; “Air, Science and Nothing in Wright’s Air Pump,” Studies in English Literature 56, #3 (Summer 2016): 647-70; “Portraiture and the Ethics of Alterity: Giacometti vis-à-vis Levinas,” October 151 (Winter 2015): 62-77; “Wyndham Lewis: War-Art-War,” in Gordon Hughes and Philipp Blom, eds., Nothing but the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War I, Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Trust, 2014: 70-9.


Early Turner: Seen and Unseen in London, 1795-1819. Under contract with Routledge Press, Research in Art History Series, manuscript to be completed, August 2023.

Editor (with Sarah Wilson), To Speak of Everything: The Art of Raymond Mason (exhibition catalog), New York Studio School, 2023 (in press).

J.M.W. Turner and the Subject of History, Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press: June 2012.

Selected Articles and Essays

“Series Paintings: Turner, Exhibition and the Thames Estuary 1808-10,” in Colnaghi Studies 5 (October 2019): pp. 111-25.    

Power, Destruction and Creativity in Turner’s Fires,” 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, December 2017.

“Air, Science and Nothing in Wright's Air Pump’,” Studies in English Literature 56, #3 (Summer 2016): 647-70.

“Portraiture and the Ethics of Alterity: Giacometti vis-à-vis Levinas,” October 151 (Winter 2015): 62-77.

“‘Gorgeous but altogether false’: Turner, Cole and Transatlantic Ideas of Empire,” for Alan Wallach and Andrew Hemingway, eds., Trans-Atlantic Romanticism, anthology in preparation. (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2014).

"Contested Waters," in Richard Johns and Christine Riding, eds, Turner and the Sea (Greenwich: National Maritime Museum, 2013).

"Turner, West and the End of Contemporary History Painting," in Emily Neff and Kaylin Weber, eds, Copley and West: American Adversaries in a Transatlantic World (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2013).

“This cross-fire of colours’: Turner and the Varnishing Days Reconsidered,” British Art Journal, v. 10, #3 (February 2010).

“Confronting the Sublime,” in Ian Warrell, ed., J.M.W. Turner, (exhibition catalog), London: Tate Publishing, 2007: pp. 39-55.

“Turner’s Slave-ship: Towards a Dialectical History Painting,” in Brycchan Carey, Markman Ellis and Sarah Salih, eds., Discourses of Slavery and Abolition: Britain and Its Colonies 1660-1838, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004: pp. 209-22.

Vija Celmins: Works from the Edward R. Broida Collection, Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2002

With Gridley McKim-Smith, “Crafting the Intangible: The Art of John Clemmer,” in David Clemmer, Leo Costello and Gridley McKim-Smith, John Clemmer: Exploring the Medium, 1940-1999, (exhibition catalog), New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1999.

Research Areas

Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century European Art; Marxist Theory and Aesthetics


Ph.D Bryn Mawr College

M.A. American University

B.A. Skidmore College

Honors & Awards

2013 - GSA Faculty Teaching and Mentoring Award, Rice University

2008 - Individual Faculty Fellowship, Humanities Research Center, Rice University

2008 - Finalist, Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, Rice University


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