Paula Birnbaum headshot

Paula Birnbaum


Program Director
Full-Time Faculty


Paula J. Birnbaum is the inaugural Ann Getty Endowed Chair and Academic Director of the Museum Studies Master of Arts Program and Professor of Art History and Museum Studies at USF. She is a specialist in modern and contemporary art and holds a doctorate in Art History from Bryn Mawr College. Professor Birnbaum is a former Fulbright Scholar and fellow at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University.

Birnbaum’s research focuses on modern and contemporary art in relationship to gender and sexuality, as well as institutional and social politics in museum exhibitions. Her publications contribute to feminist scholarship within the fields of art history, museum studies, gender studies, European studies, Jewish studies, and cultural studies. She has lectured internationally, with recent presentations at the Musée d'Orsay and Institut Giacometti in Paris (2023), University of Johannesburg (2018), Tel Aviv University (2017), the 34th World Congress of Art History, Beijing (2016).

Professor Birnbaum has completed three books: Sculpting a Life: Chana Orloff between Paris and Tel Aviv (Brandeis University Press, distributed by University of Chicago Press, 2023), Women Artists in Interwar France: Framing Femininities (Ashgate/Routledge, 2011; 2016), and a co-edited anthology with Anna Novakov, Essays on Women's Artistic and Cultural Contributions 1919-1939 (Edwin Mellen, 2009). In 2014 Professor Birnbaum received the University of San Francisco, Faculty Union (USFFA) Distinguished Research Award, and in 2008 she received the Distinguished Teaching Award. She teaches a variety of classes including: graduate courses, Museum Studies - History and Theory and Curatorial Practicum, as well as undergraduate courses in Global Contemporary Art, Gender in Modern and Contemporary Art, Modern Art and Trauma, European Art 1900-1945, Women and Art, and Israeli and Palestinian Art. Birnbaum enjoys working with students on exhibition projects in USF's Thacher Gallery, and has supervised student internships since 2003 with educators from Bay Area Museums including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, SFMOMA, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, among many others.


  • Inaugural Ann Getty Endowed Chair
  • Academic Director, Museum Studies


  • PhD, History of Art, Bryn Mawr College
  • MA, History of Art, Bryn Mawr College
  • BA, History of Art and French Literature, Bowdoin College

Awards & Distinctions

  • Hadassah Brandeis Institute Research Award, 2017.
  • University of San Francisco, Distinguished Research Award, 2014.
  • Brandeis University, Schusterman Institute for Israel Studies fellowship, 2010.
  • University of San Francisco, Distinguished Teaching Award, 2008.
  • Marilyn Yalom Research Fund Award, Stanford University, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, 1999.
  • Institute of International Education, Fulbright Fellowship to France, 1993-94.
  • Société des Professeurs Français d’Amérique, Bourse Jeanne Marandon, 1993-94.
  • Institut Français de Washington, Gilbert Chinard Scholarship, 1993.

Selected Publications

  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2023), Sculpting A Life: Chana Orloff Between Paris and Tel Aviv. Brandeis University Press, distributed by University of Chicago Press.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2023), “‘Audacieux pas en Avant’: la réception et l’héritage de Suzanne Valadon,” Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), ed. Chiara Parisi, Centre Pompidou – Metz, April 15-Sept. 11, 2023 [French].
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2022), “L’artiste femme en amazone,” in eds. Camille Morineau and Lucia Pecapane, Pionnières, artistes femmes des Années folles. Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux; Musée du Luxembourg, 2022, 147-155 [French].
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2021), “Swoon’s Medea (2017) as a Feminist Intervention: Re-producing the Maternal,” in ed. Brenda Schmahmann, Iconic Works by Feminists and Gender Activists: Mistress Pieces. Routledge.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (March/April 2020), “Practicing What We Preach,” Museum Magazine, American Alliance of Museums.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2019), “Tamara de Lempicka,” in Jane Alison, Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde. London: Prestel, 2019.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2019). “The Exhibitions of the Femmes Artists Modernes: Paris, 1931-38,” Artl@s Bulletin, Vol 8, 1.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2019). “Chana Orloff: Gender and the Modern Artist as Émigré,” Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA) 34th World Congress of Art History, Beijing, China. (conference proceedings).
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2018). “Tamara de Lempicka,” in Jane Alison, Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde. London: Prestel.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2017). “Street Art: Critique, Commodification, Canonization.” Revisioning the Contemporary Art Canon: Perspectives in a Globalizing World, ed. Ruth E. Iskin. London: Routledge Publishing.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2016). “Modern Orthodox Feminism: Jewish Law, Art, and the Quest for Equality.” Contemporary Israel: New Insights and Scholarship. ed. Fred Greenspahn. New York: New York University Press. 131-65.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2016). “Chana Orloff: A Modern Jewish Woman Sculptor of the School of Paris.” Modern Jewish Studies. vol. 15, number 1. 65-87.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2014). “Tamara de Lempicka: the Modern Woman Personified,” Archiwum Emigracji (Archives of Emigration). Ed. Ewa Bobrowska. Torun, Poland: Nicolaus Copernicus University Press, 116-26.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2012). “Chana Orloff: Sculpting as Modern Jewish Mother,” in Reconciling Art and Motherhood, anthology edited by Rachel Epp Buller. Ashgate Publishing. 45-56.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum, (2012). “Chana Orloff, Sculpture d’une Moderne.” In Chana Orloff. Paris: Chana Orloff Association. 55-63.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2011). Women Artists in Interwar France: Framing Femininities. Ashgate/Routledge.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum and Anna Novakov, eds. (2009). Essays on Women’s Artistic and Cultural Contributions 1919-1939: Expanded Social Roles for the New Woman Following the First World War. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2008). “Elaine Reichek’s Modern Day Samplers.” Art Journal. 19-35.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2004). “Red Hot White Russian.” The Royal Academy of Arts Magazine. Number 82. 42-47.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2003). “Painting the Perverse: Tamara de Lempicka and the Modern Woman Artist.” The Modern Woman Revisited. ed. Whitney Chadwick and Tirza Latimer. Rutgers University Press, September. 95-107.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum, (2003). “Constructing a Matrilineal History of Art in Interwar France.” Aurora: the Journal of the History of Art .v. 4. 155-73.
  • Paula J. Birnbaum (2000). “Alice Halicka’s Self-Effacement.” Diaspora and Modern Visual Culture: Representing Africans and Jews. ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. London: Routledge. 207-223.