Dr. Sara N. James, Professor of Art History, holds a B.A. in Art from Mary Baldwin College, an M.A. in Humanities (Medieval Studies) from Old Dominion University, where she also was admitted to Phi Kappa Phi (the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines), and a Ph.D. in Art History (Italian Renaissance) from the University of Virginia. She teaches art history and interdisciplinary courses in Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art and architecture. Recently she has expanded her research to include art in England, and has a manuscript in progress for a book on Early English Art. She serves as an academic advisor to Arts Management and Art History majors. She is a member of the College Art Association and American Association of University Professors, among other professional organizations.
Dr. James is a passionate advocate for the liberal arts/humanities, and sees the liberal education as an essential component of a civilized, democratic society. Democracies only thrive when the populus is educated. Here’s a recent letter she wrote to the Roanoke Times regarding the value of the humanities, entitled “The Humanities are the Study of Life.”
In addition to teaching and advocating for the humnities, Dr. James is an active scholar. In spring 2014 she was on sabbatical at the American Academy in Rome, Italy and in Orvieto pursuing information on frescoes in the cathedral of Orvieto. In 2013 she presented a paper on stained glass at Orvieto at the Renaissance Society of America meeting in San Diego, California; in 2012, she presented a paper at RSA in Washington, DC entitled “The Exceptional Presence of St. Joseph in Ugolino di Prete Ilario’s Frescoes at Orvieto,” the subject of her current research. In 2012, she received a grant from the Samuel Kress Foundation in New York to participate in “Making and Meaning in Renaissance Art,” a seminar at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In late July 2011, she received a Kress grant to study at the Summer Teachers’ Institute for Technical Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and Metropolitan Museum. She has received many requests for speaking engagements, including the Hermitage Foundation in Norfolk, VA and the international Chief Executives Organization to serve as speaker in Florence, Italy in May 2008. She spent her sabbatical semesters, Spring 2007 and spring 2000, doing research in Italy. She lived in Orvieto and at the American Academy in Rome, where she was appointed a Visiting Scholar. She returned to Italy in June 2005 and 2007 to present her research at a Convegno Internazionale in Orvieto, Italy.
Dr. James has several publications. Her book, entitled Signorelli and Fra Angelico at Orvieto: Liturgy, Poetry and a Vision of the End-time, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing (2003) is available from the publisher, Amazon, and in museum bookstores internationally. Two chapters she has written include “Cardinal Wolsey: The English Cardinal Italianate,” in Renaissance Papers 2008 and in “Vasari on Signorelli: The Origins of the Grand Manner of Painting” in Reading Vasari (Philip Wilson, 2005). Her article “Penance and Redemption: The Role of the Roman Liturgy in Luca Signorelli’s Frescoes at Orvieto” was published in the fall 2001 issue of Artibus et Historiae. She contributes regularly to the Sixteenth Century Journal, the Renaissance Quarterly, and newsletters for Association for Textual Scholarship in Art History and Historians of British Art as a book reviewer.
Highlights of recent scholarly publications and presentations include additional papers, such as “Art on the Margins: The Paradoxical Canon of British Art,” presented at the session sponsored by the Historians of British Art, College Art Association, Chicago, February 11, 2010. She has written several articles for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume A, published by Walter de Gruyter in Berlin (Germany), including, “St. Francis,” “Jan van Eyck,” “Antichrist in the Visual Arts” and “Apocalypse in the Visual Arts” In 2006, she co-authored with Dr. Ulysse Desportes a biography of Horace Day, The Dictionary of Virginia Biography, the Virginia State Library. In 2005, she presented a paper, “Cardinal Wolsey, his Court, His King, and the Italian Rhetoric of Magnificence,” presented at the joint meeting of the Renaissance Society of America and the Society for Renaissance Studies (Britain) in Cambridge, England, which was published in Renaissance Papers. She has given additional papers at the College Art Association, the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference and at the Southeast College Art Conference. She has enjoyed success as a photographer, especially of art, architecture, and gardens.
She has received a first place and several other awards from the Garden Club of America for her photographs of gardens. Many of the images she uses for teaching are her own, especially in her course on English art and architecture. She has donated a collection of over 2100 images of European architecture and sculpture, mainly from Italy and England, to the ArtStor data base.
In her leisure time, Dr. James enjoys traveling, photography, gardening, touring gardens, reading, stargazing, working out, walking, water skiing, swimming, sailing, and most recently sledding — as well as spoiling her eight absolutely precious, adorable, brilliant, talented, delightful grandchildren.
Web and digital image guru since 2000.