Faculty portfolios

Douglas Dowd


Director, Modern Graphic History Library


Steinberg 009

Campus Box 1031

Douglas Dowd is a professor of art and American culture studies with expertise in the practice, history, and theory of illustration. He attended Kenyon College (BA in History, 1983) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (MFA in Printmaking, 1989). His work as a writer, illustrator, animator, and printmaker addresses the social landscape. Dowd's fine books and prints are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Fogg Museum at Harvard University.

Dowd is launching his new illustrated journal Spartan Holiday in 2011-12. The non-fiction serial will be published two to three times a year. The narrative tracks Dowd's travels to diverse locations, including Shanghai, China, and the Utah desert.

Dowd is also active as a curator, essayist, and critic in the realm of modern graphic culture, writing on topics in comics, animation, and illustration. He writes the blog Graphic Tales and serves as an advisor to the Norman Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In the fall of 2011, he will serve as a visiting critic at the Maryland Institute College of Art, working with students in the new MFA in Illustration Practice program.


I engage the visual world as a non-fiction reporter with a modernist sensibility. I am typically in search of that mysterious sweet spot where description and abstraction intersect. My work engages visual and cultural facts—what a creature, item, or social environment looks like—as a means of fashioning things to better apprehend them. Sort of like reconstructing the world as if it were a model train set. I am especially fond of mid-century design, illustration, and cheap spot-color printing. Influences include Stuart Davis, Jim Flora, Mary Blair, Philip Guston, Harry Beckhoff, Milton Caniff, Al Parker, Ben Shahn, and Robert Weaver. I also admire works of informational illustration by persons as diverse as John Emslie (1850s and '60s London), Elizabeth Buchsbaum (1930s American) and the graphic designer Paul Rand.

As a critic and writer on visual culture, I am interested in the world of functional and commercial images. My teaching in American Culture Studies and my work as a curator address periodical illustration, newspaper comic strips of the mid-20th century, the history of animation design, and informational pictures. For more details, please consult my blog, Graphic Tales.