Laura Anne Kalba's research and teaching focus on the history of the fine, decorative, and commercial arts in Europe and its empires in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Her publications reflect her interdisciplinary training and abiding interest in the history of technology, capitalism, and the social life of visual and material forms.
Her first book, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art, received the 2018 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award of the College Art Association and the 2016–17 Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies. Published in 2017 by Pennsylvania State University Press, it examines the impact of new color technologies on French visual and material culture, from the early commercialization of synthetic dyes to the Lumière brothers' perfection of the autochrome color photography process. Research on this topic has also appeared in Representations, Modernism/Modernity, History and Technology, as well as several exhibition catalogs.
Her current book project investigates the ways images, objects, and places encoded and enacted shifting notions of economic value from the railway mania of the 1840s to the First World War. Tentatively titled Measures of Value, Mediums of Exchange: Modern Art and the Making of Market Society, it has received funding from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), thanks to which Kalba spent the 2018-19 academic year as a research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Related research has appeared in The Art Bulletin (March 2020) and Entangled Legacies of Empire: Race, Finance and Inequality (Manchester University Press, 2023).
Kalba teaches a range of courses on the history of modern visual and material culture. In addition to the standard surveys of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European art, she also teaches courses on the history of the graphic arts, the built environment, and general introductions to the discipline designed for those new to the study of art history.
Kalba welcomes inquiries from prospective Ph.D. students whose interests intersect with her areas of specialty, especially those wanting to pursue research that involves artistic practices and/or objects that have traditionally been overlooked in the discipline.
- Ph.D.: History, University of Southern California, 2008
- Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art, architecture, and visual/material culture
- Art, technology, and vision
- Graphic, decorative, and other commercial arts
- Art in France, Britain, and their empires