Ellen Macfarlane

Ellen Macfarlane

Assistant Professor

Art History—American and History of Photography


American art and visual culture; history of photography

Professional Biography

Ellen Macfarlane is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Denver. In her research and teaching, she explores visual culture in the modern era (1900-present), from popular print images to well-known paintings and photographs in the history of art. She received her B.A. from the University of Southern California (2006), an M.A. from Rutgers University (2011), and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University (2018). Her work has been supported by numerous fellowships, notably from the USC Visual Studies Research Institute, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the ACLS/Luce Foundation, the Huntington Library, the Center for Creative Photography, and the Terra Foundation. Her essays have appeared in American Art, Southern California Quarterly, and in numerous exhibition catalogues.

Her first book, Politics Unseen: Group f.64 Photography and the Problem of Purity (University of California Press, forthcoming fall 2024), radically reframes the pure photographs of the California art photography society Group f.64 by foregrounding members’ and their prints’ alliances across commercial, political, and artistic domains, ultimately altering perceptions of what constituted a political photograph in 1930’s America. The book received publication grants from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and the Barr Ferree Foundation at Princeton University.

She teaches on a wide range of subjects, including American art and visual culture, modern art, the history of photography, and Black art, and draws on the approaches of visual studies and environmental studies in her teaching. At DU, her classes make use of area collections, including the Denver Art Museum.


  • Ph.D., Art & Archaeology, Princeton University, 2018
  • MA, Art & Archaeology, Princeton University, 2013
  • MA, Art History , Rutgers University, 2011
  • BA, Art History , University of Southern California, 2006