Riley, Caroline

Caroline Riley


Boston University, B.A.

University of Delaware/Winterthur Program, M.A.

Boston University, Ph.D.


Caroline Riley teaches contemporary art, modern and contemporary architecture, graphic design, and design history at San Jose State University after completing her doctorate in 2016. She specializes in the visual culture of the 18th century to present from the United States, Great Britain and France. She has published on Pictorialist photography, 19th-century portrait painters, American craft, American vernacular art in Paris, the formation of the American art canon, and the politicization of American art in Europe. Her current book project, MoMA Goes to Paris in 1938: Building and Politicizing American Art, examines the powerful role that museums can play in constructing national art historical narratives by concentrating on MoMA's "Three Centuries of American Art" exhibition displayed in Paris. Her exhibition, "Craft & Modernity: Professional Women Artists in Boston (1890-1920)," on view at the Boston University Art Gallery, analyzed 150 objects to document developing artistic and social relationships in the period and explore the commercialization of craftsmanship. 

In 2006, she earned a Master's in decorative arts from the Winterthur Program. She conducted her Directed Study in American furniture and received a Museum Studies Certificate. She researched and wrote the exhibition "Classicism, Science, and the New World" on view at Winterthur. For five years she was the curator of Gunston Hall, an eighteenth-century Virginian historic house that was the home of George Mason. In this role, Caroline managed and grew the institution’s fine and decorative arts collection and led several important restoration projects. She has convened symposia with speakers from the Met, Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary, among other institutions. She has given over 30 lectures at a range of venues including the Association of Historians of American Art, College Art Association, Decorative Arts Trust, Ecole du Louvre, MESDA, Musée Goupil, NYU, Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Winterthur Museum.

Caroline has worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Cincinnati Art Museum; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; and Winterthur Museum. She has also attended the Attingham Summer School and Royal Collection Studies. During her doctorate, she received over ten fellowships including CASVA's Ailsa Mellon Bruce Predoctoral Fellowship for Historians of American Art to Travel Abroad and a Short-Term Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 



2014    Lead essayist, “Meeting on Boylston Street: Professional Women Artists, Institutions and Commerce in Boston Between 1890 and 1920”and principle editor. Craft & Modernity: Professional Women Artists in Boston (1890-1920), Boston University Art Gallery, exhibition catalog (November) 60 pages.           

Essays in Edited Volume:

2018       “Prêt en temps de guerre: la théorie des prêts et la première exposition internationale du MoMA au Musée du Jeu de Paume en 1938,Histoires de prêts. Mémoires et enjeux des prêts dans les musées (École du Louvre conference publication) (December).


2018    “American Painting in London, 1946,” Refiguring American Art, Terra Foundation, (December).

2017    “Strengthening the Bonds: The United States on Display in 1938 France,” The Journal of Transnational American Studies, October 2017.

2016    “The Pulpit and the Paintbrush: The Portraits of Jonas W. Holman (1805–1873),” The Magazine Antiques, November 2016.

2015    “American Vernacular Art in 1938 Paris: Its Categorization and Reception at MoMA’s Three Centuries of American Art exhibition on Display in 1930s Paris,” Athanor, Florida State University Journal, 2015.

2015    “Selling Pictorialist Photography as Craft: Alice Austin’s Artistic Production and Role in the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts between 1900 and 1933,” The Journal of Modern Craft, December 2015.

Catalogue Entries & Contributions:

2015    Dennis Carr, Made in the Americas: the New World discovers Asia (Boston, MA: MFA Publications, 2015), provided research support.

2007    Linda Eaton, Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection (New York City: Abrams, 2007), provided research support.

Book Review:

2016    Review of Democratic Art: The New Deal’s Influence on American Culture, by Ann Musher, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, Summer 2016.

Exhibition Review:

2019       Review of “The Art of Labor,” San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles Surface Design Journal


2018    Introduction to Tracy Williams’s “Refocusing the Lens,” Gregory Miller, ed. Prized Writing, August 2018.

Articles and Essays in Progress:

“Bound to Display: Harriet S. Tolman’s Views from a Trip to California, 1888-1889” (in progress).

“Mutable Meaning Across Markets: African American Imagery, William Sidney Mount, and the Goupil Print Company in the 1840s” (in progress).

“Envisioning the Fractured Americas: The Prince of Wale’s 1860 trip to Niagara Falls” (in progress)

“Design & Commerce: The US Pavillon at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne(in progress).

“Collecting by Numbers: The Encyclopedia Britannica’s Collection of Contemporary American Painting” (in progress).

“Museum Markets: A Study of Charles Burchfield’s Promenade and A. Conger Goodyear’s Patronage Strategies” (under review).

              “Democracy Compressed and Displayed: The Robie House Model and the Frank Lloyd Wright Section of the 1938 Three Centuries of American Art Exhibition in Paris,” (under review).

Book Manuscripts in Progress:         

Tentatively titled: MoMA Goes to Paris in 1938: Building and Politicizing American Art. The text surveys the intertwining of art, political diplomacy, and canon formation during the 1930s that gave American art a unique role in supporting shared cultural ideologies. With World War II on the horizon, these artworks took on new meaning as the embodiment of the United States. Adding complexity to notions of display, seven chapters trace how curators, politicians, journalists and art critics reimagined American art in the installation, canonization, and reception of Three Centuries of American Art