Elizabeth C. Childs

Chair of Art History and Archaeology
Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History
PhD, Columbia University
research interests:
  • Modern Art
  • 19th and 20th Century European Modernism

contact info:

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1189
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899

​Professor Childs’ field is modern art, encompassing late eighteenth- through early twentieth-century European art and visual culture, broadly defined. She is a specialist in European avant-garde modernism.

For more information, visit Elizabeth Childs' department profile

Vanishing Paradise: Art and Exoticism in Colonial Tahiti

Vanishing Paradise: Art and Exoticism in Colonial Tahiti

In the late nineteenth century Tahiti embodied Western ideas of an earthly Paradise, a primitive utopia distant geographically and culturally from the Gilded Age or Belle Epoque. Stimulated by fin de siècle longings for the exotic, a few adventurous artists sought out this Eden on the South Seas--but what they found did not always live up to the Eden of their imagination. Bringing three of these figures together in comparative perspective for the first time, Vanishing Paradise offers a fresh take on the modernist primitivism of the French painter Paul Gauguin, the nostalgic exoticism of the American John LaFarge, and the elite tourism of the American writer Henry Adams. Drawing on archives throughout Europe, America, and the South Pacific, Childs explores how these artists, lured by romantic ideas about travel and exploration, wrestled with the elusiveness of paradise and portrayed colonial Tahiti in ways both mythic and modern.