Alexander Nemerov

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This article is about the art historian. For the movie character, see The Sum of All Fears (film).
Alexander Nemerov
Occupation Art historian

Alexander Nemerov (born 1963) is a Professor of Art and Art History at Stanford University.[1][2] Prior to joining Stanford, he was a Professor of Art History and American Studies at Yale University. Over the years he has published several books and articles pertaining to the culture of American art dating from the eighteenth to the 1970s. His writing often analyzes fiction and poetry alongside works of visual art, perhaps as a result of his heritage — his father was the poet Howard Nemerov, his aunt the photographer Diane Nemerov Arbus.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Bennington, Vermont in 1963, the son of the poet Howard Nemerov, Alexander grew up in the context of the academic and contemplative life, his father having taught at Washington University in St. Louis, and earlier at Bennington College in Vermont. The period before Alexander's birth was chronicled in Howard's Journal of the Fictive Life. Alexander earned a BA in English and Art History from the University of Vermont in 1985, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude. He received his Doctorate and master's degrees in history of art from Yale University.


After completing his doctorate under the supervision of Jules Prown at Yale,[4] Nemerov went on to teach at Stanford University for nine years, eight as Assistant Professor and one as a full Professor. His areas of expertise include American art from the colonial period to the 1970s, American literature, American material culture, and American history, with special interests in "defamiliarizing," "counter-intuitive," "close" readings of works of art and literature, paying particular attention to details of form, and formal analogies between visual and literary source material. Nemerov's approach to his objects of scholarly investigation thus shares certain affinities with methodologies commonly associated with the Yale School of literary criticism. As a teacher, Professor Nemerov is known for the quality of his lectures.

Nemerov was the recipient of the Dean's Award at Stanford in 1998, as well as the Internal Faculty Fellowship Stanford Humanities Center that year. Other awards/fellowships include the Material Culture Fellowship Smithsonian Institution/University Consortium for Studies in Material Culture, National Museum of American Art (1989–1991). Nemerov returned to teach at Yale in 2001 where he received tenure. In 2012, he moved back to Stanford's art history department. In January 2014, he was named to Stanford Daily's top 10 professors list.[5]

Since the 1990s, Nemerov has published several books and numerous articles, many of which appear in the journal American Art He also has organized, or helped in organizing, a few exhibitions, which tend to coincide thematically with his research interest's at the time: these include Frederic Remington and the American Civil War: A Ghost Story at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 2006; Mammoth Scale: The Anatomical Sculptures of William Rush, 2002–2003 at the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA, 2002–2003; The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920 at the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., 1989-1991.

Currently, his research interests focus on two projects: a study of a single night’s performance of Macbeth during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, and a study of the artistic relationship between his father, the poet Howard Nemerov, and his aunt, the photographer Diane Arbus.


  • Icons of Grief: Val Lewton’s Home Front Pictures (University of California Press, 2005).[6]
  • The Body of Raphaelle Peale: Still Life and Selfhood, 1812-1824 (University of California Press, 2001) / Recipient of a Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant, 1999.[7]
  • Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America (Yale University Press, 1995) / Winner of a Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award, 1996.[8]