Associate Professor, Art History
Undergraduate Program Director, Art History
Steven Stowell is an historian of late medieval and Early Modern Italian art, whose research focuses on the devotional experiences and ritual uses of sacred images, the intersections between art and language, and the relationships between art and cultural discourses on gender and sexuality. He received his doctorate from Oxford University in 2009, and holds a BFA and an MA from Queen's University, Kingston. Prior to joining the faculty of Concordia University, Dr. Stowell held a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Art at the University of Toronto, where he also taught in the Renaissance Studies Program at Victoria College.
In his book, The Spiritual Language of Art: Medieval Christian Themes in Writings on Art of the Italian Renaissance, Dr. Stowell investigates the relationships between art, literature, and devotional responses to images. He has also published research in numerous edited volumes, as well as the journals Word & Image, Dante Studies and Renaissance and Reformation. His current research projects explore anthropological approaches to Renaissance art by looking at how art objects were implicated in the discourses surrounding fertility and growth, chastity and abundance, and healing and nourishment.
Dr. Stowell maintains both a creative writing and an artistic practice. As a painter he has an interest in figurative representation and has exhibited in Canada and the UK. As a fiction writer, he has published short stories in The Windsor Review and Carte Blanche.
• ARTH 610R Selected Issues in North American Art and Architectural History: Early Modern North American Art and the European Tradition
• ARTH 610 Counter-Reformation, Conversion andColonization: Early Modern Christian Art in Europe and North America
• ARTH 641 Issues in Visual and Material Culture: Living Art – The Power and Presence of Images from Late Antiquity to Early Modernity and Beyond
• ARTH 633 Creative and Critical Literature in Art History: Anthropological Approaches to the History of Art
• HAR 70001/ARTH 810-A Problématiques actuelles de l'histoire de l'art/Art history and its methodologies: Art, culture and society: sociological, cultural and anthropological approaches to art history.
I approach the history of art with a broad interest in the contextual histories of art objects. I am also open to several theoretical approaches that illuminate these contexts, including anthropological methodologies, and theories of sex and gender.
As a historian of Early Modern art, specializing in Italian art, I especially welcome topics on European art from the late Middle Ages to the Baroque period, as well as projects interrogating European techniques and traditions in a global context up to the present time. Within this broad geographical and historical framework, I am particularly interested in: histories of sacred art, art theory, the philosophy of art and other writings on art, art and language, art and ritual, and art-making techniques and practices.
My research in recent years has centred on three interrelated axis, most of which explore issues regarding attitudes toward sacred art in the Italian Renaissance.
A major focus of my research has been the literature on art of the Italian Renaissance and its relationship to spirituality. In engaging with these literary sources, I aim to better understand how the spiritual dimensions of works of visual art were being reimagined and repositioned as objects of intellectual and academic discourse. This was the main focus of my book The Spiritual Language of Art, and it has likewise informed forthcoming studies on the art theory of Gabriel Paleotti, and Giorgio Vasari's biography of Leonardo da Vinci. Giorgio Vasari's attitude toward the sacrament of Baptism was also the focus of my study "A Baptism of Drawing" in the edited volume Rethinking Renaissance Drawing.
A second theme of my research in recent years has been the phenomenon of miracle-working images in Renaissance Italy. A recent publication in the journal Renaissance and Reformation explores the relationships between the origins of a miracle-working image and its subsequent agency. I am also preparing articles on the shrine of Orsanmichele in Florence, as well as on Early Modern books of miracles. My work on miracle-working images engages with theories of agency derived from anthropological research.
A third area of research concerns issues of gender and sexuality in Renaissance Italy. I have explored the relationships between images and homosexuality in an article for the journal Dante Studies, as well as more recently in a forthcoming chapter on representations of male bathers in images of the Baptism of Christ. I have also explored sexual responses to spiritual images in my chapter "Purging the Eye" for the edited volume Renaissance Religions.
The Spiritual Language of Art: Medieval Christian Themes in Writings on Art of the Italian Renaissance. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015.
"Gerald and Rita's Secondhand Book Shoppe," Carte blanche, issue 42 (2021).
"A Quiet Resting Place for Us," Windsor Review: A Journal of the Arts 39, no. 2 (2006), 6-11.
"Leonardo était-il un artiste « gai »?" (invited lecture). 7e édition de la Semaine de la philosophie: décoder le génie de Vinci, Cégep régional de Lanaudière à Terrebonne, 4 novembre 2019.
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