Media @ McGill

Vanhaelen, Angela



Interest and Bio: 

Professor Vanhaelen received her PhD in Art History in 1999 from The University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellow at The University of California Berkeley in 2000 before taking up a position at the University of Regina, where she taught before coming to McGill in 2003. Professor Vanhaelen's teaching overlaps with her research interests. She offers courses on early modern art and visual culture (Renaissance and Baroque), historiography and theory.

Vanhaelen is principal investigator of the research project, “Making Worlds: Art, Materiality and early modern Globalization:

The Making Worlds project is developing an historical understanding that will contribute to contemporary debates about the effects that living in a transcontinental world has upon forms of creativity, identity, and practice. The five-year project is based at McGill University and is supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Developing a new collaborative model of graduate and faculty research in the humanities is central to our approach. Our membership includes professors and students from the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of East Anglia, the University of British Columbia and McGill. Together, we will test and explore a series of case studies and methodological propositions in collaborative research and workshops.

Early modernity witnessed a massive dislocation of people, thereby opening up new ways of understanding the world. This is a period characterized by migration, violence, and death as a result of religious conflicts, expanding trade routes, missionary activities, slavery, colonization and disease among other historical concerns. Movement across bodies of water and geographical borders offered new possibilities for interactions, for testing out identities, and for experimentation with various forms of culture. Making Worlds aims to investigate this expanding image of the world by focusing on artistic creativity, and the ways in which imagining, digesting and translating worlds, broadly construed, have been central to their making and remaking. The focus on art—on producing and engaging with it, on self-presentation and performance—foregrounds the critical creative and imaginative processes involved in making worlds.

Vanhaelen also is part of an international, interdisciplinary research project entitled, “Early Modern Conversions”

The group aims to study how early modern Europeans changed their confessional, political, social, and sexual identities. It will consider how these subjective changes interrelated with broader transformations in early modernity — the geopolitical reorientation of Europe in light of emerging relations with Islam and the Americas; the rethinking of the knowledge of Antiquity and the Middle Ages; the reimagining of God. By examining forms of conversion across disciplinary boundaries as a network of movements and transformations, the project will develop an understanding of religious, cultural, and cognitive change that will provide a new account of early modernity and a foundation for a renewed understanding of the present age. Members of the team include scholars in Art, Architectural, Literary, Music, and Theatre History, History of Religion, History of Cognition and Emotion, Social and Intellectual History, and Digital Humanities.


History of automata; Dutch garden and landscape architecture in a global context; Boredom and Dutch realism; Genre painting as a point of interface between private and public life; Early Modern Conversion; Making Worlds: Art, Materiality and Early Modern Globalization


Vanhaelen specializes in the study of seventeenth-century Dutch visual culture. Her book, The Wake of Iconoclasm: Painting the Church in the Dutch Republic (Penn State University Press) was awarded the 2013 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize by the international Sixteenth Century Society and Conference for the best book written in English dealing with Art and Music History within the time frame of 1450–1660. The Wake of Iconoclasm explores the fraught relationship between art and religion after the iconoclasm, when sacred imagery was stripped from the Dutch churches. Taking up the history of painting in the aftermath of iconoclasm, the book reassesses Dutch realism and its pictorial strategies in relation to the religious and political diversity of the Dutch cities.

Vanhaelen’s first book, Comic Print and Theatre in Early Modern Amsterdam: Gender, Childhood and the City (Ashgate: 2003), explores shifts in the popular culture traditions of late seventeenth-century Amsterdam, particularly the ways that inexpensive printed imagery worked to define key urban spaces and generate new practices of everyday life. Professor Vanhaelen is co-editor with Joseph Ward (University of Mississippi) of Making Space Public in Early Modern Europe: Performance, Geography, Privacy (Routledge: 2013). This collection of essays is the second of two volumes resulting from a Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI), funded by SSHRC: "Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700." Professor Vanhaelen’s work in the MaPs project has been featured in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio series, Ideas, as Episode 5: "Painting Modernity" of the fourteen episode series "The Origins of the Modern Public."

Professor Vanhaelen is co-editor, with Bronwen Wilson (University of East Anglia) of a special issue of the journal Art History titled The Erotics of Looking: Materiality, Solicitation and Netherlandish Visual Culture (November 2012). 

Professor Vanhaelen has published a number of articles in journals such as Art BulletinOxford Art JournalHistory CompassArt History, De Zeventiende EeuwRES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics and History of Photography.

Faculty page: 

Visit Professor Vanhaelen's faculty page here.


Early modern art and cultural studies (1500–1700); historiography and methodologies