Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.

  • Antoine Claudet, A Figure of Photography, 1839-1867

    Author:
    Karen Hellman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Geoffrey Batchen
    Abstract:

    Up to now, the early decades of nineteenth-century photography have been narrated in terms of "great" individual achievements and have tended to characterize the histories of photography in England and France as separate but parallel chronological paths. Equally, scholars have usually split their object of study between two opposite disciplines: that of science and that of art. I propose instead a lateral approach that considers the ways in which both photography and individual photographers interconnected within an expanded network of international cultural forces, primarily commerce, technology, science, and art. I aim to do this through a close study of the career of Antoine-François-Jean Claudet (1797-1867), a French-born photographer operating a daguerreotype portrait studio in London from the early 1840s to the late 1860s. As a commercial photographer interested in improving the technical as well as aesthetic possibilities of photography, as a prolific writer on the medium, and as a Frenchman living in England constantly in communication with photographers and scientists on both sides of the English Channel, Claudet intersected with these cultural forces more directly than many of his contemporaries. By examining his pursuits laterally, across the multiple communities that they traversed in his time, this study will argue that a career like Claudet's is integral to any substantial understanding of the photographic medium's first decades, while also making a vital addition to how the history of photography is usually figured, one which acknowledges connection and collaboration as key to understanding more accurately the period of photography's invention and early development. In order to account for Claudet's connective role as a photographic figure, I will look at the early decades of photographic history as a network of dialogues in the midst of an expanded web of inseparable cultural forces. Writing Claudet's career as dialogue allows for a re-picturing of photography's development as a process of successes and failures, knowns and unknowns, that produced a range of cross-disciplinary conversations. If we consider these correspondences as the latent images of photographic history, this approach is itself a photographic one. It exposes and then "develops out" these latent conversations.

  • Angels in the Americas: Paintings of Apocryphal Angels in Spain and its American Viceroyalties

    Author:
    Orlando Hernandez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones-Keber
    Abstract:

    Around the mid seventeenth century paintings of individual angels became popular in the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain (essentially present-day Mexico and Central America) and the viceroyalty of Peru (originally most of South America excluding Brazil). However, the names and representations of individual angels found across the Spanish Empire do not correspond to the few narratives that appear in the Bible, which only mentions the angels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael by name. Some of these series of paintings include angels labeled as Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Uriel, who are mentioned in Jewish texts such as the Talmud and the Cabala, as well as other texts written around the first century but considered apocryphal or non-canonical by the Catholic Church, such as the Book of Enoch. Although these images were relatively popular in Spain and Mexico, their representation was far more abundant in South America. This project investigates the multiple theological sources of angel veneration in the early modern period in Italy and Spain. Tracing these literary sources illustrates how the Jesuits, supporters of the angelic cult, found inspiration in mystic Jewish tradition for their religious ideas, around the same time that Jews were being exiled or convicted across the Spanish Empire. This investigation also documents and compares the variants of angelic representation in Spain and the Americas. Pointing out their commonalities and differences demonstrates the creativity of the artistic circles of each viceroyalty in developing particular styles and trends based on the exposure to similar European sources but adapting them to different local tastes and necessities. As other scholars have suggested, the existence of many series of paintings of apocryphal angels in the Americas attests to Catholicism's use of these images as a cross-cultural tool to evangelize the Indians in the Spanish dominions by making connections between Christianity and indigenous religious belief. I suggest that these symbols, originally belonging to the conquerors, gradually became symbols of hispanicized American societies, and in Peru, of the hispanicized Indian nobility. The angels as protectors of territories also embodied an early form of local pride, which would later evolve into national pride and eventually lead to independence from Spain. Through this dissertation, I add a more complex reading of these paintings that goes beyond the scope of the arts of resistance and the amalgamation of Judaic, Christian, and indigenous religious elements. This study thus reveals a much more complex and layered syncretic product that reflects the adoption and re-adaptation of these symbols by Spanish-American colonial society.

  • The Politics of Scholarship: College Art Association and the Uneasy Relationship between Art and Art History 1911-1945

    Author:
    Craig Houser
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Patricia Mainardi
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the critical role that the College Art Association (CAA) played in the early development of art history and studio art education as academic disciplines in U.S. colleges and universities. Although CAA initiated a variety of projects after its inception in 1911, this study focuses on the association's journals, specifically the Bulletin of the College Art Association, The Art Bulletin, Parnassus, and College Art Journal. Serving as journals of record for art and/or art history, these publications functioned not only to provide an ongoing exchange of ideas related to the visual arts in higher education, but also to validate authorities and scholars, particularly art historians, and their academic institutions. As a result, certain individuals and schools became prominent in the visual arts. My study therefore addresses not only the histories of art history and studio art, but also the relationship between CAA and its supporting institutions. Another issue in my dissertation is the rapport between CAA's two main constituents: the art historians and the artist-teachers. While they united to form CAA in 1911 to promote the visual arts in colleges and universities, the relationship between the two disciplines was often uneasy. Although CAA was established primarily by artist-teachers, the organization was taken over in the mid-1920s by art historians who controlled the journals. By the early 1940s the conflict erupted to such an extent that the art historians tried to sever ties, albeit unsuccessfully, with the artists. CAA was also affected by economics and politics of the 1930s. During the Great Depression the association struggled financially and adopted questionable policies to maintain publication of its primary journal, The Art Bulletin. With the influx of European émigrés, many CAA members also wanted the association to assume a more nationalist identity. In many respects my dissertation demonstrates that CAA was a changing social organization whose identity was at times unstable from the 1910s through World War II, as it was affected by internal conflicts and larger sociopolitical issues.

  • Colombian Artists in Paris, 1865-1905

    Author:
    Maya Jimenez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT Colombian Artists in Paris, 1865-1905 by Maya A. Jiménez Adviser: Professor Katherine Manthorne This dissertation brings together a group of artists not previously studied collectively, within the broader context of both Colombian and Latin American artists in Paris. Taking into account their conditions of travel, as well as the precarious political and economic situation of Colombia at the turn of the twentieth century, this investigation exposes the ways in which government, politics and religion influenced the stylistic and thematic choices made by these artists abroad. For those who were pensioned artists and who were restricted by a defined political agenda, their artistic experimentation was limited, while the more radical artists were typically wealthy and independent. Regardless of the circumstances, Colombian artists were burdened by their country's minimal and ineffective presence overseas, which resulted in a complete misunderstanding of their culture abroad and in a lack of presence at major universal expositions. In focusing on their role as artists, educators and art critics, this dissertation reveals the important contributions that these travelers made to Colombian art as a result of their overseas travel. As revealed in the art criticism of the period, the work of these artists and their progressive philosophies on art were received with skepticism in Colombia, a country that until then had remained largely hermetic and which traditionally had been very conservative. These artists, who established the tradition of traveling to Paris and who challenged the insularity of Colombian art, ensured the eventual birth of modernism.

  • Philosophers, Artists and Saints: Ernst L. Kirchner and Male Friendship in Paintings, 1914-1917

    Author:
    Sharon Jordan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Rose-Carol Long
    Abstract:

    This dissertation emphasizes the profound role of Friedrich Nietzsche's early publications on the artist Ernst L. Kirchner's theories and artwork in contrast to interpretations that focus on the overriding influence of the philosopher's late work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Although it is well known that the German Expressionist artists' group Brücke, or "bridge," with Kirchner as a founding member, selected their name from a passage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra to signify their movement away from the conventional social and aesthetic values of Wilhelmine Germany upon their foundation in Dresden in 1905, Kirchner's intense, lifelong engagement with Nietzsche necessitates further examination. Of particular importance is Kirchner's close friendship with the charismatic Botho Graef, a Classical archaeologist and, like Nietzsche, a trained philologist. Beginning in 1914, the men's relationship spanned three turbulent years that were interrupted by the devastating events of the First World War and ended with Graef's death in 1917. Graef introduced Kirchner to Nietzsche's first publication The Birth of Tragedy, a work centered on creative achievement as realized by the ancient Greeks through their productive reconciliation of dichotomous Apollinian and Dionysian forces. This idea quickly fostered Kirchner's emergent interest in double-portraiture featuring Graef and the members of his circle with whom he maintained close pedagogical relationships modeled after the ancient example. In Nietzsche's second publication Untimely Meditations, he explains that only a select few possess an understanding of how to successfully reconcile their actions within a framework of historical awareness to become supra-historical individuals, the "philosophers, artists and saints" of his text who are uniquely capable of transcendent cultural contributions. Kirchner navigated this period by relying equally on the example described in Nietzsche's publication and on his friendship with Graef to realize his most enduring and expressive artworks, thereby succeeding in realizing Nietzsche's ideal while establishing a potent means of artistic reconciliation and personal preservation that remained vital throughout the duration of the war and continued long after his union with Graef ended.

  • The Legacy of Constructivism in Poland: Geometric Abstraction Before and Behind the Iron Curtain

    Author:
    Karolina Kawalko
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Rose Carol Washton Long
    Abstract:

    This dissertation situates the legacy of Constructivism in Polish painting during the 1920s and in the mid-1950s, both before and behind the Iron Curtain. The material and ideological conditions of geometric abstract art are examined within the context of the East and West and across the pre- and postwar divide. I address the troubled reception of Constructivism through the prism of the artist Henryk Stazewski (1894-1988), one of the key contributors to the history of Polish art before and after World War II. If during the prewar years Stażewski attempted to invest painting with collective, universal, and international force, in the postwar period he choreographed the process of reception by exhibiting his works at home. I argue that Stazewski was aware of the ambivalent status and depoliticization of geometric art rooted in Constructivist aesthetic, and wanted to restore its socially constructive and political dimension by - paradoxically - isolating himself in an already isolated state. While geometric abstract art can be defined and interpreted in many different ways, I examine it in Eastern Europe's specific historical circumstances and anlayze how it became a symbol of resistance and dissent against totalitarian regime. Since abstract art was perceived as "autonomous," and thus unrelated to contemporary social and political events, geometric abstraction, in contrast to the politically engaged Socialist Realism, signified not only a certain kind of freedom but also political opposition during the years of Stalinism. Despite the official hostility and frequent critical denunciation of geometric abstraction as both outmoded and apolitical, this art was in fact a powerful vehicle for affecting political change.

  • 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.

  • 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.