Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History and the College


Darby English teaches modern and contemporary art and cultural studies, with a focus on American and European art produced since the Second World War. He is the author of How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness, published in 2007 by the MIT Press, and 1971: A Year in the Life of Color, forthcoming in 2016 from the University of Chicago Press. He is co-editor of Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress, published in 2002 by the MIT Press, and Art History and Emergency, forthcoming from Yale University Press. English’s short-form writing has appeared in Art BulletinArtforumcaareviewsThe GuardianThe International Review of African-American Art and other venues.

English has received fellowships and awards from the Clark Art Institute, the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Creative Capital Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, and the College Art Association, among other bodies. In 2010, English received the University of Chicago’s Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which is the nation’s oldest such prize.

English gave the Twenty-sixth Annual Hilla von Rebay Lecture at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in January 2014 and will give the Rosen Lecture at The Johns Hopkins University in autumn 2015. In autumn 2016, English will give the Cohen Lectures at Harvard University.

English’s research studies the intersection of art—its production, description, interpretation, and analysis—with ideas about historical subjectivity and experience. Recent research has particularly focused on artistic and other cultural manifestations of interculture, discomposure, optimism, and unexpected affinity. In its more theoretical formulation, this work examines the necessary difficulty of studying the foregoing themes at once as historical objects in themselves and as sources of anxiety about the implications of historical change.

English is also Consulting Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. During a two-year hiatus from the University of Chicago, where English taught from 2003 to 2013, he was Starr Director of the Research and Academic Program at the Clark Art Institute.




1971: A Year in the Life of Color (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming winter 2016)

How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (MIT Press, 2007)

Edited volumes

Art History and Emergency (Yale UP, forthcoming spring 2016). Edited with David Breslin.

Color. One of a 6-volume series of themed readers in American art history and visual culture. Terra Foundation for American Art. Series editor: Rachael Z. DeLue.

Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress (Rizzoli, 2007). Republication.

Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress (MIT Press, 2003). Edited with Ian Berry, Vivian Patterson, and Mark Reinhardt.