Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Trecento Visuality and the Visual Arts: The Role of Glass and the Influence of Optics on Italian Art of the Fourteenth Century

    Author:
    Sarah Dillon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    This project explores several facets of Trecento visuality as related phenomena and argues that the theoretical and spiritual conceptions of vision were inextricably linked to developments in optical technology, the practical experience of vision, and the visual arts. It does so by elucidating the role of sight and light in private devotional practices by examining religious art, especially reliquaries, which incorporate transparent glass. Early modern transparent glass had many functional uses--ranging from storage vessels to lenses, it was relatively cost-efficient, it was mentioned by ancient authors and natural scientists, and it was employed in religious symbolism. An examination of the many cultural associations that glass held in Trecento Italy demonstrates the ways a viewer used transparent glass in order to meditate their relationship with their world and their religious beliefs through their visual experiences and spiritual insights.

  • María Izquierdo: Religion, Gender, Mexicanidad, and Modern Art, 1940-1948

    Author:
    Celeste Donovan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the religious imagery in the art of the Mexican painter María Izquierdo (1902-1955). Among the first women in Mexico to earn her living as a professional painter, Izquierdo was an internationally renowned artist in her lifetime and remains one of the most notable artists in twentieth-century Mexican art history. Hers is a legacy that was not easily attained; working within a profession and nationalist discourse that was intensely masculine, she was persistent in her efforts to carve out a legitimate and respected space for women and for herself. Between 1940 and 1948 Izquierdo produced many paintings that incorporated popular and traditional Catholic artifacts and iconography that likewise touched upon feminine cultural experience, such as still-lifes of domestic shrines to the Virgin Mary and portraiture that evoked Madonna and Child motherhood imagery. My study revises the critical commonplace that Izquierdo's religious imagery reflects one facet of a collective Mexican cultural identity. Rather, I argue that these paintings expose an intricate web of social constructions involving ethnicity, gender, nationalism, and modernity. Examining public statements by the artist and the unique historical, economic, and sociocultural context of the decade of the 1940s, Izquierdo's domestic altars, Madonna imagery, self-portraiture, and related paintings constitute a strategic response to women's issues, the Catholic experience, the particular rhetoric of mexicanidad of that decade, and her concerted efforts to advance her professional career and notoriety. By joining her carefully crafted public persona to a strategic use of religious iconography that tapped into values intimately connected to a wide audience, Izquierdo accomplished what no woman before her had done. She reframed the role of women in the cultural narrative of the nation and successfully positioned herself as a great artist synonymous with Mexican culture itself.

  • Beyond Polychromy: John Gibson, the Roman School of Sculpture, and the Modern Classical Body

    Author:
    Roberto Ferrari
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a study of the life and career of the British sculptor John Gibson (1790-1866), whose Roman studio near the Piazza del Popolo was a frequently visited site for Grand Tourists during the nineteenth century. I argue that, for Gibson, classicism was modern, and thus he developed new methods for creating and disseminating the modern classical body in nineteenth-century sculpture. Gibson is considered by scholars to be the first nineteenth-century British artist to reintroduce polychromy in marble sculpture, as exemplified by his best-known work, the so-called Tinted Venus, 1851-53, which was displayed in London at the International Exhibition of 1862. Because this tinted statue challenged sculpture's purity of form, the subsequently negative historiography of this work has obfuscated Gibson's numerous other accomplishments in the history of nineteenth-century art. In this dissertation I discuss many of his other free-standing marble statues of modern classical subjects, such as Cupid Disguised as a Shepherd Boy, ca. 1830, a popular work commissioned in marble nine times for different patrons, and The Hunter and His Dog, 1840-41, a statue considered by his contemporaries to be his masterpiece for its balance of idealism with a close study of nature. I also examine a selection of his portrait busts and monumental statues, bas-reliefs, drawings, and work in other media, such as porcelain statuettes and engravings, for a broader perspective of his exploration of the modern classical body. Rather than ignore his polychrome sculptures, however, I offer new readings of them to show how they intersected with these other important aspects of his career. Although I focus on one artist and use published and unpublished archival sources to discuss Gibson and his work, my methodology is pluralistic. I engage biography with nineteenth-century exhibition history and critical art reviews, and I link patronage and art production to gender studies and queer theory. I also engage with sculpture in its international context, as Gibson himself would have been exposed to it in the cosmopolitan art center that was Rome. Thus, the work of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen, the two leading sculptors in the Roman school, are components of this dissertation, as are the works of native British sculptors such as John Flaxman and Joseph Nollekens to demonstrate what Gibson learned from his early teachers and how he evolved to craft his own version of the modern classic in Rome. I contextualize his work with that of his contemporaries in Rome, such as the British sculptor Richard James Wyatt, the Dutch sculptor Mathieu Kessels, and the Italian sculptor Adamo Tadolini, for a better assessment of Gibson's sculptural practices. I also discuss his patronage by aristocrats like Queen Victoria and Czar Alexander II, politicians such as Sir Robert Peel, and bourgeois industrialists such as the Liverpool manufacturer Richard Vaughan Yates, as well as the global dissemination of his work during his lifetime, which was exhibited internationally throughout Europe, Russia, Australia, North America, and India. In the introductory chapter, I establish my argument, that through a reexamination of Gibson's life and career beyond his experiments with polychrome sculpture, one can better assess his importance to the history of sculpture itself by reconsidering how he redefined the modern classical body. The second chapter is a biographical overview that demonstrates how Gibson's roots in the British school of art influenced his ideas about classicism as a form of modernity. Chapter three considers Gibson's studio practice, from the close examination of his account books to his influence on his most famous pupil, the American sculptor Harriet Hosmer. Chapter four focuses on the homoerotic male body in Gibson's oeuvre. An advocate of the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Gibson created heroic and ephebic male nudes, such as Mars Restrained by Cupid, 1819-25, a work that suggests issues as diverse as homosocialism and queer subjectivity. Chapter five discusses Gibson's interest in reproductive media and how, in shifting his role from a hands-on sculptor to a designer, he explored reproductive technologies in cameo production, ceramics, and printmaking to disseminate images of the modern classical body to the rising bourgeoisie. The final chapter explores Gibson's legacy, including his influence on New Sculptors such as Hamo Thornycroft. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that through a reexamination of the life and work of Gibson, one can begin to move past the pejorative sensibilities of Neoclassicism itself as merely historicist and reconsider classicism as a form of modern art in the nineteenth century.

  • The Church and Convento of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca: Art, Politics, and Religion in a Mixtec Village, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries

    Author:
    Alessia Frassani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quiñones Keber
    Abstract:

    The mission-building campaign undertaken in the Americas in the years following the Spanish conquest (1521-1546) is the largest and most ambitious evangelical and artistic enterprise in the history of the Catholic Church. In the span of just a few decades, Spanish mendicant friars, at the head of the missionary efforts, established hundreds of conventos (missions) in both colonial cities and provinces. These institutions did not merely accommodate friars. Planned to carry out doctrinal, educational, and liturgical activities, they soon became booming economic and cultural centers. This dissertation focuses on the convento in the Mixtec town of Yanhuitlan in Oaxaca, southwestern Mexico, and is the first to provide a comprehensive study of a mission and its historical development. Previous art historical scholarship has usually granted separate attention to the architecture, painting, and sculpture of the Mexican missions, overrating formal qualities and neglecting the fact that all aspects of the convento were part of the same larger artistic and religious program. The sixteenth-century missionary complex consists of the main church, adjoining cloister, and residential and working areas; it houses several colonial altarpieces and a collection of wooden polychrome sculptures. It was the most important artistic enterprise undertaken in Yanhuitlan in the early decades after the conquest and has remained since then the main focus of artistic and religious activities. First, the alliance of Mixtec leaders with Dominican friars and Spanish authorities made possible the erection of the mission, which became a powerful statement of the new hegemonic status of Yanhuitlan in the region. In the following centuries, activities of the confraternities became the most important impulse of art patronage. Spanish in origin, these institutions became gradually independent from the local parish and colonial authorities, filling the vacuum left by a waning traditional leadership. My dissertation integrates on-site investigation and archival and ethnographic research to address the various strategies of appropriation, manipulation, and display of Spanish, Mixtec, and hybrid art forms in the context of political colonization and religious evangelization.

  • Photography as Process: A Study of the Japanese Photography Journal Provoke

    Author:
    Yuko Fujii
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation evaluates the significance of a series of four critical Japanese photography publications, referred to here as Provoke. First published in 1968, Provoke consisted of a run of three quarterly journal issues, each bearing the same title as the series: Provoke. The series ceased publication in 1970 with the fourth Provoke publication, entitled Mazu tashika rashisa no sekai o sutero: Shashin to gengo no shisô [First, abandon the world of pseudo-certainty: Thought on photography and language]. Actively drawing on Western theory and literature, Provoke members--photographers Nakahira Takuma, Takanashi Yutaka, and Moriyama Daidô; critic-photographer, Taki Kôji; and poet Okada Takahiko--aimed to create visual images that would reveal a world indescribable by conventional language. The term are-bure-boke, which means grainy, blurred, and out of focus, was coined to describe their radical photographs, many of which look as though they were taken by accident and appear to be of nothing in particular. I argue that Provoke members not only challenged the aesthetics of existing photography genres, but also illuminated the very notion of photography itself. Their deconstructivist attitudes gave rise to photographs that were taken in the midst of unrehearsed settings, as well as developed and edited in rather random operations. Their process-oriented photography went hand in hand with the periodical style of the series, revealing the evolution of members' photography and ideas as each of the four publications was published. Rather than consider photography an end product of photographers' visualization, Provoke members demonstrated photography's intricate intertwining with the production process, beginning with taking photographs, extending through to developing prints, and ending with publishing the publications. I explore the material aspects of Provoke and First, Abandon the World of Pseudo-certainty as well as examine the publications' photographs. By doing so, I also argue that the publications are more than journals and a book: they belong to a multi-faceted medium including photobooks and artists' book. The publications' strong graphic take on photography and the photographers' engagement in the relationship between photography and language made the photographic publications unique among other commercial photography magazines and photobooks.

  • Four Parts Together, or Shaping Shapelessness: The Cultural Poetics of Inka Spatial Practice

    Author:
    Jeremy George
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones Keber
    Abstract:

    Abstract FOUR PARTS TOGETHER, OR SHAPING SHAPELESSNESS: THE CULTURAL POETICS OF INKA SPATIAL PRACTICE by Jeremy James George Adviser: Professor Eloise Quiñones Keber This dissertation investigates the shaping of highland Andean culture through spatial practice--the phrase that theorist Henri Lefebvre used to describe how a society produces, reproduces, and extends its own idea of space for its own ends. The inquiry focuses on four select paradigms of spatial practice: defining the cultural poetics of spatial practice as a structural and semiotic methodology; analyzing pre-Columbian Inka (Inca; ca. 13th-16th c.) architectonic (sculptural) stone forms; interpreting spatial paradigms in the seventeenth-century manuscript of Peruvian chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala; and re-defining the "active surface" of contemporary Cuzco (Cusco), Peru, the ancient capital of the Inka. By centralizing spatial practice in successive temporal thresholds and various material mediums, this project creates an interpretive model for diachronic cultural analysis as a social, historical, and representational concern. After establishing that Inka spatial practice is rooted in a concept of replicating and transforming centers, the dissertation examines aspects of centeredness in Guaman Poma's manuscript, El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (ca. 1615) (The First New Chronicle and Good Government). The 398 line drawings of this key document codify colonial spatial practice as a socio-cultural mechanism of change, resistance, and imagination for its singular author-artist. Analysis of its thirty-eight city images underscores the role of architecture and urbanism in the flux of contestation, resistance, and subversive transformation. By concluding with a survey of the active surface of today's Cuzco, identified by its veneering, performances, processions, and virtually constructed ideas of Inkaness, I argue that the reproduction of contemporary spatial practice is both a formal reflection and a critical aberration of historically established centering principles. As such, Cuzco is a distinct heterotopia, to borrow the language of Michel Foucault, meaning liminal, interstitial, simultaneously mythic and real, a web of relations manipulating manifestations of past, present, and future. The consequence, then, is that there is now no mythology of originality in the Inka heartland, and only the originality of mythology remains. This means that the cultural identity invested in the center-based spatial practice is now re-invested in a surface veneer, relegated there as a contingent, reconstructed, fantastical idea of Inkaness.

  • The Hall Of Fame For Great Americans: The Evolution Of A Forgotten Memorial

    Author:
    Sheila Gerami
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Harriet Senie
    Abstract:

    Abstract The Hall of Fame for Great Americans: The Evolution of a Forgotten Memorial by Sheila Gerami Adviser: Harriet F. Senie The period between the Civil War and World War I was the first great age of public art in the United States. Outdoor sculptures were a part of a larger attempt to construct a didactic environment where shared American ideals could inspire and uplift citizens. It was within this climate that Dr. Henry MacCracken (1840-1918), Chancellor of New York University from 1891-1910, conceived the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (HOF) as part of a City Beautiful campus designed by Stanford White (1853-1906) in the Bronx. This dissertation is the only comprehensive examination of the HOF, beginning with its conception and ending with its decline. The memorial officially opened in 1901 and belongs to a public art tradition defined by nineteenth-century values that emerged after the Civil War. This tradition emphasized patriotism and good citizenship, coupled with a veneration of heroes prompted by the sacrifices of the war. The HOF was realized over the course of the twentieth century; it was the country’s first hall of fame and a unique institution on a college campus. The HOF (now part of Bronx Community College) houses ninety-eight bronze portrait busts representing differing categories of honorees such as statesmen, lawyers and judges, military, scientists, educators, and authors. Although no longer in the limelight, the HOF remains an exceptional collection of Beaux-Arts portrait busts that reflects the values of the Gilded Age, when the nation was taking its place as a world leader. Many factors contributed to the waning of interest in this monument including changing concepts of heroes and heroism, the rise of modernism, and the decline of the Bronx location of the memorial. The HOF reveals the values of those who conceived of it, funded it, participated in its elections, and celebrated its honorees. This research furthers understanding of the elaborate matrix involving the conception, patronage, creation, and reception of what was once a major American monument.

  • MOBILIZING THE COLLECTIVE: HELHESTEN AND THE DANISH AVANT-GARDE, 1934-1946

    Author:
    Kerry Greaves
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Emily Braun
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the avant-garde Danish artists' collective Helhesten (The Hell-Horse), which was active from 1941 to 1944 in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen and undertook cultural resistance during the war. The main claim of this study is that Helhesten was an original and fully established avant-garde before the artists formed the more internationally focused Cobra group, and that the collective's development of sophisticated socio-political engagement and new kinds of countercultural strategies prefigured those of postwar art groups such as Fluxus and the Situationist International. The group and its eponymous journal involved the Danish modernists Asger Jorn, Ejler Bille, Henry Heerup, Egill Jacobsen, and Carl-Henning Pedersen, as well as anthropologists, archeologists, psychologists, and scientists. Helhesten's twelve issues from April 1941 to November 1944 featured essays on art theory, non-Western artifacts, literature, poetry, film, architecture, and photography, together with exhibition reviews and profiles of contemporary Danish artists. The group appropriated certain stylistic traits from German Expressionism, Dada, and Surrealism. Yet rather than partaking in a retrograde modernist nostalgia, the Helhesten artists radically reformulated the tactics of these movements into what they called a "living art," or "new realism," which emphasized subjectivity, indeterminacy, and a fundamental anti-essentialism that rejected the Nazi obsession with purity as much as it did the prescriptive manifestos of the historical avant-gardes. What emerged was purposefully unskilled, brightly colored painterly abstraction and naïve styles that were humorous and disarmingly child-like on the surface but trenchant and sophisticated underneath. Helhesten consciously challenged Nazi racist propaganda and its conception of Volk, caricatured the idealized Aryan body, defied Hitler's attempts to assert a common Nordic heritage, and critiqued the National Socialist obsession with historical continuity and order. Moreover, as a fundamental link between pre- and postwar vanguard art movements, Helhesten's living aesthetic celebrated quotidian existence through play, disruption, and heightened awareness in a manner that presaged the postwar avant-garde's engagement with everyday life.

  • Female Book Owners in the Valois Courts, 1350-1550: Devotional Manuscripts as Vehicles for Self-Definition

    Author:
    Joni Hand
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Barbara Lane
    Abstract:

    An examination of the books owned by noblewomen from the Valois courts reveals how significantly they contributed to the cultural and spiritual character of the period. They were responsible for commissioning a vast number of manuscripts, some of which were aesthetically equal to the books made for the dukes and kings. In fact, certain manuscripts now considered the most lavish and important from this period belonged to women. These women often married into noble families from regions far from their native lands. When they arrived at their new homes, they brought their own customs, knowledge of artistic styles, and aesthetic sensibilities, which affected book production in western Europe. Appendices 1-7 show the complexity of relationships between nobles from Burgundy, France, Spain and England for eleven generations, and include all of the individuals discussed in this dissertation. These charts reveal the matrilineal connections between generations and include many women who do not appear on ancestral charts in other studies of the late medieval nobility in northern Europe. As demonstrated in the charts, marriages could result in the solidification of certain regions within a generation, causing genealogical ramifications in subsequent generations. This ancestral web shows the mobility of women in western Europe in the late Middle Ages, resulting in their desire to preserve some of their childhood traditions through commissions of devotional manuscripts. This interactive nature of manuscripts and the multiple ways in which they were used by women of the Valois courts is central to this study. I adhere to the idea that devotional manuscripts used by these women must be studied within the context for which they were made and in which they were used. At first glance, devotional manuscripts appear to be just that, books of prayers. On further examination, it is clear that they were multifunctional and could express issues that applied to many aspects of a noblewoman's life. This dissertation considers book collections of late medieval noblewomen and the ways in which they used their private devotional manuscripts as vehicles for self-definition, in order to preserve the devotional and cultural traditions of their families.

  • A NEOCLASSICAL CONUNDRUM: PAINTING GREEK MYTHOLOGY IN FRANCE, 1780-1825

    Author:
    Katie Hanson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes Greco-Roman mythological subjects as a thematic subset of French Neoclassical painting between 1780 and 1825. This style and time period are better known for moralizing and heroic subjects from Roman history and Napoleonic conquest, while amorous and fantastical mythic subjects have remained marginalized. By highlighting this thematic subset, however, my dissertation emphasizes the complementarities between mythological subjects and the more widely studied themes of virtuous action within French Neoclassical painting in particular, as well as continuities with traditions and new directions in French painting more generally. I contextualize paintings by Jacques-Louis David, Anne-Louis Girodet, Antoine-Jean Gros, Pierre Gu érin, and Jean-Baptiste Regnault, as well as the commissioning and purchasing practices of the Director of King's Buildings, the comte d' Angiviller, within contemporaneous art theory, criticism, and mythography to illuminate thematic trends and cultural contexts for the reception of mythic painting. From these sources, I propose new interpretations of paintings depicting the Deucalion flood, Orpheus, Aurora, Morpheus, Ariadne, and Mars, as well as the poet Sappho. My dissertation is divided into thematic chapters analyzing myth as a cultural constant for exhibition, Ovid's illustrated Metamorphoses, otherworldly perfection in superhuman narratives and bodies, myth's embodiment of creative inspiration, and myth as a forum for legacy formation. French Neoclassical painters' utilization of fanciful narratives from Greek mythology demonstrates continued interest in Rococo subjects as well as the broadening of thematic considerations that would be paramount among Romantics. My dissertation, by considering Neoclassicizing mythologies as a group constituting a trend, demonstrates that such paintings are not isolated anomalies, but rather integrated threads in the art historical fabric, bound to what came before as well as to what would follow. This consideration of mythological paintings as a poetic subset of Neoclassicism promotes a more organic view of French painting; by presenting them as hybrids, at once Rococo (in their ambiguity and eroticism), Neoclassical (in their style and antique characters), and Romantic (in their focus on passions and creative processes of the human mind), my dissertation identifies continuities within French narrative painting from the eighteenth into the nineteenth centuries.