Rebecca Zorach

Rebecca Zorach

Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Visiting Professor
Wasted Time and Unintended Images
2022-2023 (April-June)
Rebecca Zorach


Rebecca Zorach teaches in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University, with affiliations in programs in American Studies and Environmental Policy and Culture. She writes, teaches, and curates exhibitions on early modern European art, contemporary activist art, and art of the 1960s and 1970s. Her books include Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (Chicago, 2005), The Passionate Triangle (Chicago, 2011), and Art for People’s Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago 1965–1975 (Duke, 2019). Her current work addresses art and ecology, public art, and racial justice.

Project Summary

Zorach will be continuing work on a book project on Paolo Uccello that she began at the Villa I Tatti in 2019: Uccello's Disasters (Or, Paolo Uccello's Wasted Time). Giorgio Vasari was highly critical of Uccello, considering him to have wasted his time and talent investigating the intricacies of perspective, to the point that he neglected the human figures in his compositions. (The word “time” appears fourteen times in his biography of the painter—evenly split between references to wasted time and references to “those times,” i.e. the mid-fifteenth century.) His seemingly obsessive use of perspective as the backdrop of disaster raises questions about whether order and rationality could provide solutions to the chaos of war and human vice. The book examines a series of Uccello’s most famous works in a thematic way that studies how Uccello imagined the temporality of perspectival space, the effects of destruction, and what it means to live within temporal and sacred history. In addition, she will be working toward completion of a book manuscript, tentatively entitled The Unintended Image, which addresses the early modern idea of Nature as an intentional, knowing force, in particular in relation to the making of images (as in “figured stones” and other natural forms that can be described in modern terms as as pseudoimages). In conjunction with this project she will be co-hosting, with Monica Azzolini, an exploratory seminar at I Tatti tentatively entitled "Under Sea, Under Stone."