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Whitney Davis

Whitney Davis


NOMIS Project(s)

Whitney Davis is a 2024 NOMIS Awardee and professor of the Graduate School in the History of Art department at the University of California, Berkeley (US), as well as honorary professor of art history at the University of York (UK). He is leading the project Depictured Worlds: The Perceptual Power of Pictures.

A joint citizen of Canada and the US, Davis received his PhD in fine arts from Harvard University (Cambridge, US) in 1985, where he was a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows from 1983 to 1986. He then taught at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL, US), where he was John Evans Professor and director of the Humanities Center, before joining UC Berkeley in 2001. Davis was Pardee Professor of History and Theory of Ancient Modern Art at UC Berkeley until 2023. He has held numerous fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and residencies at the Stanford Humanities Center and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

Research Focus

A leading art historian, Davis’ research interests focus on prehistoric and ancient arts, including worldwide rock art, ancient Egyptian and Greco–Roman arts, the Classical tradition in Western art (especially in Britain), and the development of modern art history in relation to archaeology, anthropology and philosophy. Most recently, he has explored analytic models and historical reconstructions of the generation and dissemination of visual culture and of the spatial and temporal resolution at which pictures become visually meaningful.

Davis has lectured widely on his research around the world. In addition to his NOMIS project, he is currently completing a book on space, time and depiction, and is working on “sculptural representation” — how pictures work when they are fully “three-dimensional” — and a project on the relation between aesthetic criticism and philosophical ethics.


Davis has published 10 books, including The Canonical Tradition in Ancient Egyptian Art (Cambridge, 1989), Replications: Archaeology, Art History, Psychoanalysis (Penn State, 1996), A General Theory of Visual Culture (Princeton, 2011), Visuality and Virtuality: Images and Pictures from Prehistory to Perspective (Princeton, 2017), and Visions of Art History (Edinburgh University Press, 2025), as well as over 125 articles, chapters and essays.

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