Linda K. Williams

Linda Williams

Professor Emerita, Art and Art History

Linda K. Williams is an art historian specializing in the arts and culture of early modern New Spain, specifically the Yucatán Peninsula. Williams taught a range of courses in the Department of Art and Art History and Latin American Studies Program from 2004 until her retirement in 2022, including art of Europe and the Americas from 1300 to the present and Museum Studies. She collaborated with faculty and with students to curate exhibitions in Kittredge Gallery and led the celebration of Kittredge Hall’s 75th anniversary with a year of events and symposia. Collaborating with colleagues in and outside of the department, she led student trips to Los Angeles and Mexico City.

Drawing upon her background in European mural painting and decades of research in churches and in archives across Yucatán, Williams’ publications focus primarily on the murals of sixteenth and seventeenth-century churches and conventos of the peninsula. Analyzing the function of imagery within the rich and profound cultural matrix of the region, she argues that Maya artists created works that subtly combined traditional beliefs with new iconography introduced by Franciscan friars in the first centuries of Christian evangelization.

In 2019, Williams and collaborators received a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that funded the visual documentation of the remaining works as well as their physical and historical analysis. Pigment samples were tested for composition and stratigraphy using X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy with dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDS) in collaboration with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Pennsylvania State University Materials Characterization Laboratory; the testing confirmed facture of paints by Indigenous artists. The resultant article (2021) and book – Maya Christian Murals of Early Modern Yucatán (Fall, 2024) disseminate the technical findings and argument that Maya artists were central in creating, inflecting, and augmenting religious belief in early modern Yucatán. Yale University’s Material and Visual Cultures of Religion website (án_tour/) presents gigapixel aerial images of five of the sites.

Professor Williams’ current research focuses on two separate seventeenth-century case studies based on documents in the National Archive in Mexico City and the Vatican Archive in Rome that treat Franciscan and Dominican artistic and religious practice in Maya communities.


Book and Articles
  • Maya Christian Murals of Early Modern Yucatán, co-authored with Amara Solari. (Forthcoming, Fall 2024) University of Texas Press.
  • “Maya Blue and Franciscan Evangelism” co-authored with Amara Solari, Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, 3:4 (2021): 49-71.
  • “The Birth of the Virgin with Saint Michael Mural at Tabi: The Inmaculada and Idolatry in Seventeenth-Century Yucatán” Ethnohistory, 61:4 (2014): 715-738.
  • “Modalities of Representation: Symbol and Contemporary Narrative in Sixteenth-Century Murals at the Convent of Izamal, Yucatán.” Colonial Latin American Review, v. 22:1 (2013): 98-125.
  • “Dual Messages of Power on the Façade of Casa Montejo, Mérida, Yucatán.” Studies in Iconography v. 31 (2010): 157-210.
Book Reviews
  • Clothing the New World Church: Liturgical Textiles of Spanish America, 1520-1820, by Maya Stanfield-Mazzi. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 2021. Textile History, 52: 1-2 (2022): 233-235.
  • Visual Culture of the Ancient Americas: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Andrew Finegold and Ellen Hoobler; afterword by Esther Pasztory. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 2017. Hispanic American Historical Review, 98:4 (2018): 709-711.
  • Global Indios: The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain, by Nancy E. van Deusen. Durham: Duke University Press. 2015. Sixteenth Century Journal, 47:4 (2017): 1058-1059.

View CV (PDF)

BA University of California, Davis
BA Sonoma State University
MA The University of Texas at Austin
PhD University of Washington

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