Julia Langbein
Junior Research Fellow in History of Art

How do images model interpretation or criticism? And why is it that comic images have borne critical intention so frequently and so well?  My research argues that these questions are central to the history of modernism, art criticism, and the relation between high art and a broad public.


I studied for my undergraduate degree in Art History at Columbia University, and completed my PhD in Art History at the University of Chicago in 2014, just before taking up my Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity College Oxford.


My research follows two intersecting axes: comic form, including visual parody, graphic satire, and caricature; and the history, theory and practice of imitation, copy, and pastiche from the long nineteenth century through contemporary art.

I am currently working on a book entitled Salon Caricature: Comic Criticism and Modern Art in Nineteenth Century France that stems from my dissertation on the French nineteenth-century genre of the Salon pour rire or Salon caricature. Between c.1840 and 1880 press artists caricatured not just the social comedy of the public at the exhibition but paintings themselves, playing out exaggerated misreadings of a painting’s content or imitating a painter’s style. Rather than see this genre as the graphic incarnation of popular hostility to the challenges of modern art, I explore the shared technologies and semiotics of painters and press artists, arguing for the importance of comic form in the generative years of pictorial modernism.

I am also at work on a second book project tentatively entitled ‘Old Masters: Self-Parody and the Late Work.’ A pattern emerges in the nineteenth century in which painters hailed in their youth for heroic originality are accused of self-parody in their later years. In a series of related case studies, I examine how painters trained in academic systems found their use of copy and imitation – the central pedagogy of academic training – betrayed by popular reproductions of their work in illustrated objects, such as the sales catalogue and the artist’s biography. Where late-in-life artists were mocked for verging on self-parody, I ask how instead pictorial repetition might operate as study, introspection, or critical thought.

Selected Publications

  • Comic Criticism and Modern Art in Nineteenth Century France (forthcoming).
  • “WRONG GOD: FAILE’s Prayer Wheels and Exploded Devotion,” in FAILE: The Wood Book, ed. Ian Bourland (Berlin: Gestalten, 2014).
  • “Cham, Daumier and Sky Gazing in Nineteenth-Century Paris” in Looking and Listening in Nineteenth-Century France, edited by Martha Ward and Anne Leonard (Chicago: University of Chicago Smart Museum of Art, 2007) 27 -37

Selected Reviews and interviews, artforum.com, November 2009 – present

  • “Irma Blank: 500 Words,” October 2014
  • “Yvonne Rainer,” August 2014
  • “‘Progress’ at the Foundling Museum,” July 2014
  • “A.R. Hopwood’s False Memory Archive,” July 2014
  • “everything falls faster than an anvil,” May 2014