A distinguished scholar of American culture, Alexander Nemerov explores our connection to the past and the power of the humanities to shape our lives. Through empathetic and intuitive research and close readings of history, philosophy, and poetry, Nemerov thinks about art as a form of emotional truth and consider the demands it places upon us for ethical engagement. Revered for his breadth of scholarship and celebrated for his eloquent public speaking, Nemerov inspires audiences with his belief in the affirming and transfiguring force of art.
Nemerov is the author most recently of The Forest: A Fable of America in the 1830s (Princeton, 2023)--a series of tales each centering on a visionary experience in the last years of America as a heavily forested land. Praised by Annie Proulx ("deeply beautiful,” “astonishingly tender,” “one of the richest books ever to come my way") and Edmund de Waal (“moving and shocking and beautiful, an extraordinary achievement”), The Forest conjures a lost world of shade and sun.
Nemerov’s previous book, Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York, was short-listed for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Prize in Biography. The book before that, Summoning Pearl Harbor, was praised by the novelist Ali Smith as "a unifying and liberating meditation." Another book, Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine, was short-listed for the Marfield Prize, a national award in arts writing. Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus and Howard Nemerov is his meditation on his father, the poet Howard Nemerov, and his aunt, the photographer Diane Arbus. Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s was named one of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles in 2013. Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War was also a Choice Outstanding Academic Book. Icons of Grief: Val Lewton and 1940s America was praised by The New York Review of Books as "superbly original." His previous two books are The Body of Raphaelle Peale: Still Life and Selfhood, 1812-1824 and Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America. In addition, Nemerov has published two exhibition catalogues, To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America, the companion to a National Museum of American Art exhibition of that name; and Ralph Eugene Meatyard: American Mystic.
After receiving his B.A. in Art History and English from the University of Vermont, graduating with Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors, and his Ph.D. in the History of Art from Yale University, Nemerov began teaching at Stanford in 1992. He returned to Yale in 2001 as professor, where from 2009 to 2012 he chaired the Department of the History of Art and in 2010 was named to the Vincent Scully Professorship. He returned to Stanford in 2012 as the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities. He served as chair of the Department of Art and Art History from 2015 to 2021. The Stanford Daily named him one of the university's top ten professors.
In 2007 he gave the Andrew Wyeth Lecture at the National Gallery of Art. Nemerov delivered, in 2017, the 66th annual Andrew W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art, becoming the first scholar to deliver those lectures on an American art topic.