Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.  

  • The Seventh Regiment Armory Commission and Design: Elite Identity, Aesthetic Patronage and Professional Practice in Gilded Age New York

    Author:
    Chelsea Bruner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an exploration and analysis of the Seventh Regiment Armory, a privately funded, purpose-built headquarters for the nineteenth century's most elite volunteer militia. This project demonstrates how the conception and funding of the building were a direct response to Gilded Age labor-capital conflict--a means by which even non-member elites could participate in the most contentious socio-political debates of the day. Simultaneously, the Armory's commission and design reflected a new level of professionalization in the design profession(s) and specialization in architectural typology, and I argue that transformations in politics and professional practice were not discrete phenomena, but were manifestations of elite class consolidation in the face of unprecedented social change. This study tracks the evolution of the Seventh, establishing a connection between military proficiency and elite identity as reflected in a series of facilities used over the years. I connect the Seventh's policing duties with other elite initiatives to compel fiscal and social "reform" while establishing Aestheticism as a visual and stylistic corollary to those endeavors. Implemented by the first generation of American design professionals--architects, engineers and even artists--the class-based component of professionalism was brought to the fore in the late 1870s by the nascent labor movement, and this project explores the heretofore unexamined role that striking workers played in further catalyzing class consolidation among elite patrons and their peers in the design professions. The Armory was an exemplar of these professional and stylistic transformations. This analysis illuminates the continuity between the Seventh's interiors and other contemporaneous projects that are united (to a remarkable degree) stylistically, but otherwise typologically and geographically varied, further linking Aestheticism to the broader project of class consolidation and identity formation. By the mid-1880s, the style had fallen out of favor, thus the Armory is significant as a rare, extant example. It was the precedent for a subsequent boom in armory construction and inspired a number of imitators locally and across the country, but its sumptuous interiors were never matched. The Armory is an important and heretofore unexplored monument to a moment of incredible transformation in the country and city's history.

  • "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.

  • ENTFESSELTES BAUEN (BUILDING UNLEASHED): HOLISTIC EDUCATION IN HANNES MEYER'S BAUHAUS: 1927-1930

    Author:
    Dara Kiese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Rose-Carol Washton Long
    Abstract:

    The prevalent view of the Bauhaus is based on Gropius' tenure from 1919 to 1928. This dissertation examines the school under second director Hannes Meyer (1928-1930) in terms of pedagogy, production and presentation to the public. Discussion about Meyer's political views and Gropius' own well-publicized version of the history have overshadowed his accomplishments. This dissertation widens the purview of his project to encompass pressing contemporary cultural and philosophical currents. Rooted in late 19th century ideals of mutual cooperation and holism, Meyer's Bauhaus marked a pivotal moment for architectural and design education. Stressing the individual's complex needs, community, egalitarianism and financial self-sufficiency, he created a model for a more open design process. Inspired by interdisciplinary and sometimes conflicting methodologies--from Gestalt theory to social sciences and biology to anarchism and ecology--Meyer's contributions were innovative in focus and methodology to discover how best to meet the needs of the contemporary user or consumer. Chapter One, "`New World,' New Hire: Meyer's `Functional, Collectivist-Constructive' Teaching Philosophy in 1927," gives an account of Meyer's first year at the Bauhaus as the head of the architecture department to show how disagreements with other faculty members and ongoing debates have shaped the prevalent understanding of his subsequent directorship. Chapter Two, "Der Mensch als Einheit. Meyer's Guest Lectures as theoretical humanism" details how he changed the focus of attention from Bauhaus "style" to serving the needs of man by better understanding him through study of the humanities, social sciences, philosophy and applied, holistic and Gestalt psychology. Chapter Three "Meyer's New Building Theory: `the architect is dead,' but the building lives" investigates the theoretical bases of Meyer's approach and then considers its practical manifestations in the pedagogical components of the architecture program. Finally, Chapter Four "Bauhaus Wanderausstellung: Discursive Space and DIY Design" examines Meyer's public presentation of Bauhaus pedagogy and production in the 1929-30 traveling exhibition and public lectures. He employed the same approach to the public sphere by equipping people with the discursive and practical tools necessary to imagine and create their own suitable and sustainable environments, leading to many aspects of contemporary architecture and design practice.

  • Owning the Exotic: Production of Hispano-Islamic Lusterware and its Reception in Western Europe, 1350-1650

    Author:
    Andrea Ortuno
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Jennifer Ball
    Abstract:

    Lusterware, tin-glazed pottery decorated with striking iridescent designs, was first made in Basra, Iraq, in the ninth century. These luxury ceramics and the specialized technique involved in their creation spread rapidly throughout the Islamic world, with the Iberian Peninsula ultimately becoming a center for production. This dissertation examines the social, historical, and artistic circumstances surrounding Hispano-Islamic lusterware production and provides insight into its reception in Western Europe during the height of its consumption from 1350 to 1650. Given that available scholarship on Hispano-Islamic lusterware is primarily concerned with archaeological excavation, trade practices, and formal analysis, our understanding of what this pottery meant to the artists who created it and to the patrons whose tastes it satisfied has remained unclear. My dissertation clarifies these aspects by viewing both the creation and patronage of this lusterware as driven by its conception as an exotic luxury item in the Iberian Peninsula as well as in Northern Europe and Italy. Moreover, while waning lusterware consumption in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, and Spain in particular, has been viewed as evidence of a change of taste imposed by the growth of an Italian Renaissance aesthetic, I demonstrate that new types of attainable exotica, such as Chinese porcelain and New World ceramics, also diminished lusterware's popularity.

  • Engineering, Photography, and the Construction of Modern Paris, 1857-1911

    Author:
    Sean Weiss
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    "Engineering, Photography, and the Construction of Modern Paris, 1857-1911" investigates the photographic practices of state civil engineers in the construction of public works in Paris during the Second Empire (1852-70) and the early Third Republic (1870-1940). It contends that Paris became expressly modern by means of a physical transformation that was inseparable from new modes of publicity arising in concert with technologies of representation and reproduction. Photographs commissioned in many building campaigns supervised by state engineers functioned as exemplary documents of rationalized urban management used to remotely monitor site conditions, construction progress, and detail construction techniques. The state's civil engineers not only documented building campaigns with photography, but they also orchestrated the circulation of these photographs of public works at sites for official publicity including universal expositions, publications, and the press. As a result of these and related efforts, civil engineers crafted modern Paris as a material space and as a virtual one, which drew the experience of spectators into the construction of the capital. This thesis is elucidated through five chapters that demonstrate how photography and civil engineering intersected with the urban transformation of the capital. The chapters progress chronologically and examine a series of case studies, which shift back and forth between applications of the medium in the field and the institutional environments that structured patterns of production and reception of these photographs. By doing so, this study argues that engineers' construction of physical infrastructure was inseparable from their uses of photography, which together helped to construct the capital's modernity in the second half of the nineteenth century.

  • Binding Lives: Southern Photobooks and the Great Depression in America

    Author:
    Sharon Suchma
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Siona Wilson
    Abstract:

    In the 1930s and 1940s the University of North Carolina (UNC) Press published many photobooks on the American South that have since escaped serious scholarly attention. This study argues that a new type of photobook emerged within a regionally and culturally specific context. The UNC Press photobooks demonstrate a balance between being art objects and parts of a burgeoning mass media. They also represent attempts by academics to bring up economic and social issues, such as sharecropping during the Depression, to a mainstream public. Critically, most of the authors were Southerners themselves. This is important because the North had traditionally dominated the representation of the South, both visually and in writing. The Southern authors often employed the popular stereotypes of the South in order to engage a larger audience and ultimately reconstruct what were understood as Southern characteristics. The UNC photobooks represent a specific type of Southern photobook that includes colloquial speech and folklore, sociological data (literally or visually in the form of photographs), current issues, and a call for social reform. Their written and photographic acknowledgment of racial issues in the South was groundbreaking in comparison to the practices of the larger publishing profession. Under the influence of UNC sociologist Howard Odum and UNC Press director William Couch many photobooks utilized government photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and forged ties with certain government employees, such as Roy Stryker, director of the FSA Historical Division. Both the UNC and the FSA were interested in the way photography could be embraced by the social sciences and their collaborations went beyond the production of photobooks into projects involving university exhibitions and even course offerings. As such, this material not only expands the history of photography in and about the South and the history of photobooks, but of the FSA as well.

  • Boom and Dust: The Rise of Latin American and Latino Art in New York Exhibitions Spaces and the Auction House Market, 1970s-1980s

    Author:
    Taina Caragol Barreto
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    Art of the Fantastic: Latin American Art 1920-1987 Hispanic Art in the United States: Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors

  • 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.

  • 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.