arthur-kathleen-200x200 image


Professor Emerita, Italian Renaissance Art History, Associate Curator, Medieval & Renaissance Art, Madison Art Collection

Kathleen (Kay) Arthur received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. During her career at JMU, she taught classes in aspects of Medieval and Italian Renaissance art, and a survey of Women artists. She served as Chair of Art History for ten years, working to expand and enrich the major. Having studied abroad herself as an undergraduate in Florence, she founded the JMU Semester in Florence in 1986 and directed the program for 15 years. Subsequently she became head of JMU International Programs for 10 years.  After retiring from fulltime teaching, she has taught museum seminars and curated exhibitions on Italian art, Shenandoah Valley Neo-Gothic architecture, and Rembrandt at the James and Gladys Kemp Lisanby Museum and the Madison Art Collection.

She has authored book chapters, articles, and reviews on Florentine Renaissance art, especially Giotto, Dante, and Orcagna, and more recently Renaissance nun-artists. These include the Franciscan mystic Caterina Vigri (also known as St. Catherine of Bologna) and Maria di Ormanno degli Albizzi, who drew one of the first women artist’s self-portraits in her breviary. Kay continues to be active in professional organizations such as the College Art Association, the Renaissance Society of America, Southeastern College Art Association, and served as editor of the Italian Art Society Newsletter (2010-2016). She has a recent article in the Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorisches Institutes in Florenz (2017) and a book, Women, Art, and Observant Piety: Caterina Vigri and the Poor Clares in early Modern Ferrara (Amsterdam University Press) forthcoming in 2018.

Kay has received professional awards for scholarship and service, such as the JMU Provost Award for Excellence in International Programs, the  Madison Scholar Award, and the Southeastern College Art Association Award for Exemplary Achievement. Retired JMU professor emeritus Dr. Thomas Arthur created the Kathleen G. Arthur Scholarship Endowment for International Study in Art History in Florence. The JMU Semester in Florence offers classes in Italian, art history, history, political science and literature and celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2016.



Women, Art and Observant Piety: Caterina Vigri and the Poor Clares in Early Modern Ferrara, (forthcoming, Amsterdam University Press, 2018).

“New Evidence for a Scribal-Nun’s Art: Maria Ormanno degli Albizzi at San Gaggio,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz LVIX: 2 (2017): 271-279.

“Rembrandt and the Mennonite Community,” (Curator), Charles Lisanby Museum, JMU, January 2014.

“The Maria del Sochorso Altarpiece: A Cretan Icon transformed in Counter-Reformation Italy,” Southeastern College Art Conference Review XVI: 2 (2013): 151-170.

“Shenandoah Gothic: Gothic Revival Architecture in the Valley, 1830-1930,” (Curator) Prism Gallery, JMU, April/May, 2012.

“Descent, Elevation and Ascent: Oppositional Forces in the Strozzi Chapel,” in Gravity in Art, ed. Mary D. Edwards & Elizabeth Bailey, (McFarland, 2012), 50-71.

“The Inheritance of Rome: Returning to the Eternal City,” (Curator), Madison Art Collection Gallery, JMU December/January 2010.

 “Il breviario di Santa Caterina da Bologna e “l’arte povera” clarissa,” in Monasteri femminili come Centri di Cultura nel Rinascimento e Barocco, ed. Gianna Pomata & Gabriella Zarri (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e   Letteratura, 2005), 93-111.

“Images of Clare and Francis in Caterina Vigri’s Personal Breviary,” Franciscan Studies 62 (2004): 177-192. 

"Cult Objects and Artistic Patronage of the fourteenth-century flagellant confraternity of Gesu Pellegrino," in Christianity and the Renaissance, ed. Timothy Verdon & John Henderson (Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1990), 336-360.

"A New Document on Andrea Orcagna in 1345," Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz XXXII (1988): 521-524.

"The Strozzi Chapel: Notes on the Building History of Santa Maria Novella, Art Bulletin LXV (1983): 367-386.



“Maria Ormanno (degli Albizzi) and the Problem of Self-Portraiture in Italian Manuscripts,” International Congress on Medieval Studies, 2016.

“The reception and influence of German single-sheet devotional prints in Ferrara,” Renaissance Society of America, 2015.

“Augustine for Women: Sister Veronica’s copy of the Citta di Dio,” presenter; co-chair, “Miniaturists, Illustrators and Copyists,” Renaissance Society of America, 2014.

“Seeing and Touching the Gesu Bambino,” Southeastern College Art Conference, 2013.

“Creating the image of Beata Caterina Vigri,” International Congress on Medieval Studies, 2010.

“Descent, Elevation and Ascent: Oppositional Forces in the Strozzi Chapel,” College Art Association, 2009.

“The Tale of Cupid and Psyche in sixteenth-century Rome,” Southeastern College Art Conference, 2009.

“Cloisters: Urban Politics and the Monastic Ideal,” session co-chair, College Art Association, 2007.

“Constructing the Image of St. Francis’ Stigmatization,” International Congress on Medieval Studies, 2005.

“False Modesty? Self-portraits and Signatures in fifteenth-century Female Arts and Letters,” Renaissance Society of America, 2004.

“Guardate le mie sorelle: Looking at North Italian Artist-nuns,” Renaissance Society of America, 2003.

“Art inside the Cloister: Artist nuns in fifteenth-century Italy,” College Art Association, 2003.

“Gendered Readings of Saint Jerome,” Southeastern College Art Conference, 2001.



B.A., Skidmore College; M.A. & Ph.D., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Professor of Art History, James Madison University, 1975-2008; Chair, 1998-2008.

Director, JMU Semester in Florence Program 1986-2000.

JMU Faculty Research or Administrative Leaves: 1978, 1981, 1984 2000-2001.

JMU Study Abroad faculty member/or assistant: Florence (1989 & 1995) London (1981, 1984, 1997).

Assistant Vice-President for International Programs, 1991-2000.

Editor, Italian Art Society Newsletter, 2010-2016.



Southeastern College Art Association, Exemplary Achievement Award, 2008.

Madison Scholar Award, JMU School of Visual & Performing Arts, 2008.

JMU Provost Award for Excellence in International Programs, 2007.

“Developing an Archive of Digitized Images for Arts and Letters in Context (MDID),” JMU MGrant, 1998. "Faculty Development to Promote Active Learning in Key Liberal Studies Courses" SCHEV, 1989-90.

Samuel H. Kress Foundation Fellowship for Dissertation Research, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.

Back to Top