Maura Lyons received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from Boston University, with a specialization in the art and architecture of the United States. Her scholarship and teaching explore the visual and cultural means by which works of art communicate, considering not only what they say but how they say it. Her teaching also demonstrates her interest in involving students in tracing the dynamic relationship between past and present art. Her courses include Themes in Art History, Modern Art History, American Art History, American Landscapes, Curatorship Seminar, Art and Chemistry, and Paths to Knowledge for the Honors program.
Lyons’ scholarship demonstrates her interest in the formation of artistic canons. Her book, William Dunlap and the Construction of an American Art History, was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2005. Drawing on period newspapers, magazines, and correspondence, this study analyzes the first history of American art, published in 1834, as one means of creating a national culture after the United States achieved independence from England.
Her recent research focuses on the visual culture of the American Civil War. Her articles on this topic have appeared in American Art, a journal of the Smithsonian Institution; Public Art Dialogue; and most recently Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art.
Lyons has co-curated two exhibitions at Drake’s Anderson Gallery with students, combining her research and teaching interests. Building a Modern Campus: Eliel and Eero Saarinen at Drake University (2008) traced the architectural, institutional, and cultural legacies of the work of the internationally acclaimed architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen on the Drake University campus during the late 1940s and 1950s. Lyons’ essay in the exhibition catalogue reconstructs Drake’s decision to undertake a campus expansion in a modernist architectural style and contextualizes such decisions within U.S. history after World War II. The exhibition and its programming was supported by a Major Grant from Humanities Iowa, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A student-designed website accompanied the exhibition. Draw Your Weapons!: Civil War Cartoons from Harper’s Weekly (2013-14) showcased editorial cartoons on the subject of the Civil War from the pages of Harper’s Weekly magazine. The exhibition traced four themes across the cartoons: gender, representations of African Americans, North vs. South, and leadership. These themes map the changing attitudes of the Northern civilian public toward the war. The accompanying exhibition catalogue offers an introductory essay by Lyons on the public role of cartoons during the Civil War and entries on individual cartoons from the exhibition by student authors. The exhibition also featured a student-designed and authored website. Draw Your Weapons! was supported by grants from the State Historical Society, Inc. and Humanities Iowa.