Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • TRADITION AND INNOVATION IN THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE WORKSHOP: FROM PERUGINO TO RAPHAEL

    Author:
    Jennie Jee-Hyun Kim
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    Throughout Pietro Perugino's career, pupils, assistants, and collaborators associated with his shops in Perugia and Florence were critical to his highly productive enterprise. The drawings of Perugino and his Florentine and Umbrian associates are a unique source of linear genealogy documenting the role of the master, the contributions and participation of the workshop, and the artistic exchange that occurred in the process. This dissertation examines the workshop practices of Perugino and his pupils as independent artists, using evidence furnished by workshop drawings. The drawings, byproducts of the daily operations of these workshops, reveal both continuity in practice over generations and the ways in which each generation adapted to changes in the artistic climate. The reconstructions, in addition, have the potential to shed additional light upon the intersection between tradition, theory, and practice, as well as socio-economic conditions, such as training, collaboration, and organization in the Renaissance workshop. The market for copies, variations, and replicas is considered in the context of the notion of imitazione and meaning and cultural value of copies unique to Perugino's time. And the different grades of workshop production are illuminated by Perugino's methods of production and design. Using evidence furnished by workshop drawings, this dissertation also examines the formative influence of the practices of Perugino on artists trained in his workshop. Among artists that came under his tutelage, two dominant tendencies emerge: a derivative style in Perugia among local artists under the shadow of Perugino's monopoly and an independent style, found outside of Perugia, reflecting the influence of Perugino's workshop instruction. The careers of two significant pupils, Berto di Giovanni in Perugia and Raphael in Florence and Rome demonstrate the transmission of the experience of Perugino's workshop through two very different career trajectories, and will be used as case studies. Characteristics of their practice that reflect the heritage of Perugino such as the systematic use of drawings, employment of tools and techniques of replication and the master's exemplum, and principles of organization will be evaluated to trace continuity and innovation in workshop practice.

  • John Martin (1789-1854) and the Mechanics of Making Art in a Commercial Nation

    Author:
    Lars Kokkonen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation reinterprets the career of the English artist, John Martin (1789-1854). Challenging the popular characterization of him as an apocalyptic visionary opposed to modern commercial and industrial society, this study argues that Martin, in fact, was the only major artist of his time to speak out in favor of the modern science of political economy and its core concepts of competitive individualism, self-interest, and technological innovation. While many of Martin's artist contemporaries incessantly - and futilely - petitioned the government for financial assistance for "historical painting" on the grounds that state protection was necessary if the highest category of painting (according to the civic humanist theory of art) was ever going to flourish in commercial Britain, Martin argued that "historic painting" was "dead as an art," and continually adapted his style, media, and subject matter to meet the demands of the art market. This dissertation contends that once we consider Martin's career from the perspective of someone who believed adamantly in modern political economy, his status in the history of British art as a Romantic visionary who believed that modern commercial society was immoral and corrupt will fall away. My first chapter examines attempts by the Royal Academy between 1800 and 1815 to secure government funding for historical paintings by Academicians. It then goes on to discuss Martin's involvement in establishing the rival Society of British Artists in the interest of free competition among private exhibiting societies. The second chapter examines how Martin and others who had founded the SBA testified before a select committee of the House of Commons that the Academy was attempting to restrain free trade and extinguish competition by seeking a monopoly on public funds. The third chapter interprets Martin's Thames and metropolis improvement plans as celebrating, not condemning, the spread of capitalism, industrialization, and urbanization. The fourth chapter provides a detailed examination of John Ruskin's statements about Martin over a forty-five year period, demonstrating how Ruskin's contempt for capitalism - and those who supported it - informed his criticisms of Martin's work. The last chapter considers the effect that Martin's belief in laissez-faire capitalism had on his work in general and on his painting in particular.

  • Catharine Lorillard Wolfe: Collecting and Patronage in the Gilded Age

    Author:
    Margaret Laster
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    Until now, Lorillard-tobacco heiress, philanthropist, and art patron Catharine Lorillard Wolfe (1828-1887) has been largely overlooked in the study of the cultural life of post-Civil War America. Nevertheless, as one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a preeminent collector of contemporary European art that she bequeathed to the Museum, she made her mark in the 1870s and 1880s as a prominent tastemaker in Gilded-Age New York. At the same time, Wolfe extended her artistic reach to the seaside resort of Newport, Rhode Island. With her architects, the firm of Peabody & Stearns, she embarked on the construction of a great summer house that enabled her to showcase her architectural and artistic sophistication. Her patronage of leading artists and designers of the English Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts movements there helped propel their work into the American visual consciousness. There were two components to Wolfe's patronage, each encompassing a specific residence, a particular locale, and a distinct aesthetic. Few art patrons, especially unmarried women, have had such a direct impact on the Gilded Age's cultural landscape in this dual way. Using a method derived from material culture and patronage studies, and the archival and contextual analysis of objects and buildings, this dissertation analyzes the range and significance of her contribution to the two sites she inhabited. The study of Wolfe's projects and her ability to negotiate between the domains of city and resort enable one to assess how one member of New York's elite was able to use the amassing of material culture to elevate her status in the city at a time when social classes were being redefined. It was also a transformative period in Newport, which was on its way to becoming the premier resort on the Eastern seaboard. Wolfe's creation of a great house there became an important signifier of her status and made a permanent mark on the built environment of Newport. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of art consumption, display, and identity formation, and how they functioned in different contexts and in different ways through the acts of collecting and patronage.  

  • Framing the Nation: Nation Building, Resistance, and Democratization in Korean Photography, 1945-2008

    Author:
    Jung Joon Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines photography in Korea since 1945, focusing on the medium's relation to the processes of nation building, civic resistance, and democratization. The dissertation evaluates a number of types of photograph, ranging from war photographs to family portraits to art photography. These assessments are informed by the ways in which photography has articulated, and in turn been shaped by, social, political, and technological shifts in Korean society. Korea's history since 1945--a history of liberation, war, nation building, and civic struggle against authoritarian military governments--parallels the culture's development of photography and its various practices. The relationship between photography and nation building and photography and democratization is thus crucial to the history of both the nation and the medium: photography does not merely re-present Korean life; it is an integral part of it. The investigation is organized chronologically, following the progression of South Korea's social and political development and treating the distinct formative periods in the nation-building process as backdrop and cultivator for the photographic works that emerged from each era. The history of photography in Korea since 1945 is the history of the struggles and trials of a society functioning under ideological conflict, state control, and a culture emerging from normalized militarism. This dissertation argues that the photographic practices that have developed since independence are fundamentally about the relationship between the state and the people. An understanding of this relationship, and how photography articulates it, is dependent on understanding the socio-political progress of the nation and how these photographic practices have become specifically Korean. The dissertation provides an understanding of this progress. With the sharp increase in interest in "national photography" since the turn of the millennium, issues of subjectivity have become even more apparent. Embracing the importance of interdisciplinary methodologies, this dissertation emphasizes issues of subjectivity and power dynamics as part of the produced knowledge and contextualizes Korean photographic practices within the historical significance of nation building, civic resistance, and democratization.

  • 30,000 Reasons to Remember: Artistic Strategies for Memorializing Argentina's Disappeared

    Author:
    Marisa Lerer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    This dissertation traces the construction of memorials from 1976-2009 dedicated to the victims of state-sponsored terrorism under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, now known collectively as the disappeared, and the creation of new paradigms in public art and memorialization practices in Argentina. I examine a typology of memorials to the disappeared and analyze the spatial power dynamics in the public realm under the dictatorship and in the democratic era. This dissertation is the first scholarly text to focus on the history of patronage and the range of visual forms in Argentine memorials to the disappeared. My research analyzes the relationship between a memorial's subject and the artists' chosen formal representational strategies. I explore the artists' use of various media and styles to memorialize the disappeared, including documentary photography, guerilla art, conceptualism, minimalism, abstraction, performance, and figuration. Aesthetic choices reflect the political platforms and goals of the memorials' main patronage groups: human rights organizations, cultural institutions, and the government. My investigation reveals that the memorials dedicated to the victims of state-sponsored terrorism are part of a contentious struggle in the politics of public space that began under the military junta and continues to this day. The production of Argentine memorials that honor the disappeared are a reflection of the present moment in which they are designed. Artists and human rights organizations created these works to challenge and alter the established government order and cultural institutional spaces became sites of resistance against the historical narrative put forth by the military and the ruling democratic presidents. Minimalism, on the other hand appears to have become a favored choice for government-sponsored memorials because it lacks and therefore erases an apparent narrative. This project stresses the importance of understanding and considering audience response to the major paradigms of Argentine memorial construction. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of my research incorporates the study of Latin American art with public art, and memory studies, thereby providing a new lens through which to analyze contemporary Argentine art production.

  • Francis Picabia and the Problem of Nihilism

    Author:
    David Lewis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Emily Braun
    Abstract:

    “Francis Picabia and the Problem of Nihilism ” offers an interpretation of Francis Picabia based on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Building on already established art-historical material, and on the tradition of Nietzschian interpretation in continental aesthetics, the dissertation offers a new reading of Picabia's hugely variegated, apparently contradictory career. The central claim is that Picabia's art was generated by the same problem that Nietzsche wrestled with in philosophy: nihilism, the devaluation of all transcendent values in modernity. The strategies Picabia developed to overcome nihilism often match those developed by Nietzsche. Each of the five chapters defines such a strategy and tracks the way it unfolded in Picabia's oeuvre, analyzing specific paintings and texts formally and contextually by way of contemporary criticism and intellectual currents.

  • Improving the Public: Cultural and Typological Change in Nineteenth-Century Libraries

    Author:
    Jill Lord
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    Concurrent with New York City's emergence during the nineteenth century as the leading financial and cultural center in the United States, the city's public library architecture underwent a transition from buildings designed in romantic revival styles to monumental, neoclassical edifices that were intended by their architects and patrons to rival municipal libraries in other cities. New York's Astor Library, founded in 1848, was the first public library in the United States, and although its Romanesque Revival architecture was not a model for later libraries, its existence spurred the establishment of other public libraries. Before then access to all other libraries in the city required either membership in a particular group, such as a trade union, or a fee. The Neo-Grec design for the Lenox Library, founded in 1870, pushed public library design toward that of other emerging cultural institutions such as art museums in that it used similar forms. These two libraries, along with $2.5 million provided by the Tilden Trust, were consolidated in 1895 to form the New York Public Library. The public hoped that the new library would improve civic life by amassing a great collection and making it available to all, regardless of age, sex, or country of origin. These three institutions are the basis of this study of the library type as the embodiment of larger developments in the nineteenth-century architecture and culture of New York City. In this dissertation, I examine the development of the public library type--which entailed debates about both function and style--against the backdrop of New York's emergence as a world-class city. The New York Public Library was one of the last, large public libraries built in the United States during the Gilded Age. Other rival cities such as Boston and Chicago completed libraries prior to the consolidation of the New York Public Library. As a result, its architects had the benefit of studying these other institutions in order to determine what characteristics should be incorporated into the new building, and what should be avoided. New York Public Library represents the culmination of the public library type in New York City.

  • Arte povera in Turin 1967-1978: Contextualizing Artistic Strategies during the Anni di piombo

    Author:
    Elizabeth Mangini
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Romy Golan
    Abstract:

    This dissertation presents an original analysis of four artists based in Turin, Italy: Giovanni Anselmo (b. 1934), Mario Merz (1925-2003), Giuseppe Penone (b. 1947), and Gilberto Zorio (b. 1944). Although these sculptors are ordinarily considered either individually or within the context of the 1960s-70s movement Arte povera, focusing on the sub-grouping reveals historical, tactical, and thematic connections that are otherwise unapparent. Their specific careers evolved within the social, artistic and intellectual context of Turin during a time of great political upheaval and philosophical foment. This study contributes to a new understanding of engagement by these four artists with Italian aesthetics and politics, and presents a framework through which to study Arte povera more generally. Critic Germano Celant was based in Turin in 1967, when he developed the notion of Arte povera as a national artistic phenomenon that began in 1967 and ended in 1971. From its inception, the label was applied to contemporary Italian artists whose projects explicitly aimed to de-invest the artwork of predetermined meaning, but it is often misunderstood as referring to an interest in "poor" materials. Rather than attempting to recast and debate the term Arte povera however, this dissertation primarily argues that the socio-political history of Turin, combined with a prominent school of phenomenological philosophy, inspired the rise of specific aesthetic strategies and their subsequent identification by figures such as Celant, Tommaso Trini, Mirella Bandini, and others. Anselmo, Merz, Penone, and Zorio, in particular, created objects and installations that used natural and industrial materials alike to engage viewers in modes of active perception, creating empowered viewing subjects. Seen in relief with contemporary philosophical ideas about multi-sensory experience forming the sensible world, such artworks appear as aesthetic analogues to the political mobilizations occurring in Turin's factories and streets. Using a periodization based on Italian political history rather than the artistic one considered by Celant, this study examines the projects of these four artists from the student movement's beginnings in 1967 to the climax of domestic terrorism in 1978. It situates each artist's material practice within the local philosophical and social context to reveal its latent political charge.

  • "I Am Elsewhere": Luigi Ontani and the Tableau Vivant in Italian Art, 1969-1979

    Author:
    Anna Mecugni
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Romy Golan
    Abstract:

    "`I Am Elsewhere'" posits Luigi Ontani as a leading figure and pioneer of the postmodern tableau-vivant revival in Italy, 1969 to 1979. The tableau vivant as an artistic strategy and subject concerned artists both independent and affiliated with Arte Povera. The primary medium for these artists was photography and, secondarily, live performance, film, video, and painting. The main forerunners of this revival were painter Giorgio de Chirico and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ontani donned the visages of figures and characters from past paintings and sculptures, cultural history, and contemporary popular culture in tableaux primarily staged for the camera. He pioneered the use of color photography and video in the early 1970s. In the second half of the 1970s he performed his tableaux in front of an audience and executed a series of hand-tinted black-and-white tableau photos in collaboration with commercial photographers in India. This study combines object-based art history, cultural history, and critical theory. It connects Ontani's tableau works with camp aesthetics and queer theory, and investigates the economic, technological, social, political, cultural, and artistic circumstances out of which the tableau-vivant revival emerged and flourished in Italy. The tableau-vivant revival and Ontani's works are related to three contemporaneous socio-historical phenomena: image culture, or the saturation of everyday life with electronic and printed images starting in the early 1960s; the Italian gay liberation movement of the early 1970s; and internal terrorism from both left and right, afflicting the country from 1969 until 1980. This treatise problematizes the reductive view of contemporary Italian art as structured around the binary sequence Arte Povera-Transavanguardia. It addresses the phenomenon of the tableau-vivant revival, yet to be discussed in the literature on contemporary Italian art. The importance of this phenomenon cannot be underestimated since creating tableaux has become a central artistic strategy in the visual arts of the past thirty plus years, and is commonly considered a hallmark of postmodern aesthetics. "`I Am Elsewhere'" also contributes a study of one of the earliest extensive collaborations between an Italian and Indian practitioners in the postcolonial world.

  • Critical Positions in Recent South African Photography

    Author:
    Kevin Mulhearn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    This work presents a history of South African photography through an account of critical practices undertaken by individual photographers. Rather than the history of photography in South Africa, this project offers a taxonomy of a variety of strategies and tactics pursued by practitioners of the medium before and after the fall of apartheid. Told through case studies, it probes how these photographers were influenced by their political commitments, their dreams about their country's future and their beliefs about the efficacy of art as an agent of social change. To consider both the practice of particular photographers and their personal investment in the making of images, this dissertation blends a theoretical framework with biography and social history. While bodies of theoretical inquiry, like critical white studies and creolization theory, help put South African photographs into an international dialogue with other contemporary art, biographies ground the work in the lives led by photographers who have experienced the vagaries of South African history. Drawing on interviews and on an analysis of the history of photography in South Africa, this dissertation inquires what these photographs tell South Africans about themselves and what they tell the world about South Africa. Chapter One provides a short account of the history of photography in South Africa told through the lens of the work and careers of photographers Santu Mofokeng, Peter McKenzie and Jo Ractliffe. Chapter Two relates the work of David Goldblatt and Hentie van der Merwe to that of scholars pursuing an avenue of inquiry called critical white studies, scholars who posit whiteness as a socially constructed form of privilege. In Chapter Three, the documentary photography of Ernest Cole and the conceptual work of Berni Searle will be situated in relation to creolization theory. Chapter Four examines how photographers Mikhael Subotzky, Zanele Muholi and Nontsikelelo `Lolo' Veleko are articulating new concepts about what it is to be a post-apartheid South African photographer. Finally, I will conclude with a reflection on my own subject position: an American, deeply concerned about race, who is looking at South Africa in an attempt to understand his own history.