James Elkins is an American art historian and art critic. He is E.C. Chadbourne Chair of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He also coordinates the Stone Summer Theory Institute, a famous, short term school/colloquium on contemporary art history based at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Elkins's writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes). Recent books include What Photography Is, written against Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida; Artists with PhDs, second edition; and Art Critiques: A Guide, third edition.