Susan Rather Awarded the 30th Annual Eldredge Prize for Her Book The American School

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Susan Rather for her book The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era (New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016). The product of more than two decades of research, Rather’s intricately argued and fine-grained study deeply probes the question of artistic status on both sides of the Atlantic in the late colonial and early national periods. The jurors wrote in a joint statement: “The depth of her knowledge is evident on every page, as she explores artists’ complex negotiations of their place and purpose in the context of shifting conceptions of artistic labor.”

The three jurors were Jennifer Greenhill, associate professor of art history at the University of Southern California; Janet Headley, professor of fine arts at Loyola University Maryland; and Akela Reason, associate professor of history at the University of Georgia. The jurors continued: “Examining the lives and experiences of canonical masters such as Benjamin West alongside understudied but important painters like William Williams, Rather establishes new fields of relation between them, offering compelling and persuasive interpretations of their works along the way. Rather’s story is, in broader terms, that of American art’s emergence.”

Rather is a professor of art history and serves as an associate chair for the department of art and art history at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Archaism, Modernism, and the Art of Paul Manship (1993), a book that engages issues of modernism in early twentieth-century European and American sculpture, exploring archaeological resources for archaism, the classification of the non-Western art of India as archaic, the interest of sculptors in modern dance and the changing critical perception of archaism. Rather’s work has been widely published in journals, books and exhibition catalogs. She received a bachelor’s degree from Denison University (1978) and earned her master’s degree (1981) and doctorate (1986) in art history from the University of Delaware. 

Rather will present the annual Eldredge Prize lecture on February 7, 2019; details will be available online at https://americanart.si.edu/research/awards/eldredge

The Eldredge Prize, which includes an award of $3,000, is named in honor of the former director of the museum (1982–1988) and is sponsored by the American Art Forum, a patrons’ support organization. This annual award, initiated in 1989, recognizes originality and thoroughness of research, excellence of writing and clarity of method. Single-author, book-length publications in the field of American art history appearing within the three previous calendar years are eligible. Dec. 1 is the deadline for next year’s nominations.

Recent Eldredge Prize recipients include Jennifer L. Roberts (2017) for her book Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America, Michael Lobel (2016) for his book John Sloan: Drawing on Illustration, Amy Lyford (2015) for her book Isamu Noguchi’s Modernism: Negotiating Race, Labor, and Nation, 1930–1950 and Wendy Bellion (2014) for her book Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America. A complete list of past winners is available online at https://americanart.si.edu/research/awards/eldredge.

The museum’s research programs include fellowships for pre- and postdoctoral scholars, extensive photographic collections documenting American art and artists and unparalleled art research databases. An active publications program of books, catalogs and the journal American Art complements the museum’s exhibitions and educational programs.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. The Renwick is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.

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