Fellows in Residence, 2005-2006

Sheila Barker

Postdoctoral Fellow, Independent Scholar

Claude Lorrain and America

For much of the nineteenth century, Americans hailed Claude Lorrain (1600–1682) as the “prince of landscape painting,” yet only a handful of this nation’s citizens had ever seen an authentic painting by the Old Master. As had occurred in England, his artistic legacy came to occupy a prime place in this country’s visual and artistic cultures. Moreover, it served as a critical reference point for American landscape painters from Thomas Cole to George Inness_a fact recognized by the artists themselves and their contemporaries, and also acknowledged by today’s art historians.

Answering the need for a general study of Claude’s art in nineteenth-century America, my investigation takes a twofold approach to the topic. First, I am establishing the means by which Americans constructed their conceptions of Claude’s art (whether through knowledge of the original paintings or through copies, prints, and verbal descriptions); second, I am documenting the cultural and ideological associations that filtered their appreciation of his art and his place in history. To determine what Americans knew of Claude’s art and to understand what it meant to them, I will analyze a variety of historical sources, including exhibition records and reviews, auction sales, travel literature, inventories of early American art collections, art criticism, painting manuals, artists’ writings, popular novels and poetry, landscape gardening treatises, and nineteenth-century monographs on the Old Master.

The study of the changing fortune of Claude’s legacy can serve as a means of approaching larger issues in American intellectual history. By pinpointing those circumstances that successively excited and diminished enthusiasm for Claude’s art, I hope to shed new light on the changing sociopolitical climate in the United States over the course of the nineteenth century.

The results of this research will be published as an article or book and will serve as the basis for an exhibition to be held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In this exhibition, the original paintings of Claude Lorrain will be displayed alongside the works of American landscape painters who looked to his art as a model.

Sergio Cortesini

Joshua C. Taylor Postdoctoral Fellow, Independent Scholar

'One Day We Must Meet': Art and National Identity in Fascist Italy and New Deal America, 1933-41

My goal during this fellowship is to complete an ongoing research project that compares the art policies of Fascist Italy and New Deal America. The resulting intercultural study will examine the shifting forms of Italian and American artistic self-representation in the period of diplomatic relations between the Roosevelt and Mussolini governments, from the peak of political cordiality in 1933 to World War II.

By focusing on a series of exhibitions of the work of living artists that the Italian regime sent across the Atlantic_from the “Century of Progress” Chicago World’s Fair of 1933–34 to the New York World’s Fair of 1939–40_I will explore the diplomatic mission assigned to modern art in fashioning the image of Fascist Italy for a U.S. audience. I will also consider the role of art and art criticism in defining the national identity of New Deal America and determine how art contributed to the rising political antagonism between the two countries.

The Smithsonian libraries and archives will be essential resources in tracking the reception of the Italian exhibitions in American cultural circles. How did Italy’s promotional image contribute to the burgeoning art culture in America? To what degree did the presentation of Italian art under the umbrella of state patronage lead Americans to compare it with federal New Deal support to artists?

I will reconsider the debate on American art within the New Deal for its historical and ideological analogies with Italian Fascist cultural policy. Both Italian and American governments assigned art a role in the shaping of national self-consciousness. Their respective cultural brokers elaborated a similar-sounding rhetoric centered on analogous aesthetic values and social programs. However, beyond comparable subject matter, the rhetoric veiled opposite ideologies.

Comparing and contrasting the agendas of Fascist Italy and New Deal America will enhance our knowledge of the arts under dictatorships and democracies, and bring new light to the indoctrination of the masses in the dramatic years before World War II.

Jennifer Greenhill

Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Yale University

 

'The Plague of Jocularity': Art, Humor, and the American Social Body, 1863-1906

My dissertation examines the contested place of humor in American art in the years following the Civil War, when the nation was engaged in developing, for the first time, a truly ‘high’ sense of culture. Conservatives sought to present an image of unshakable seriousness on the world stage, one demonstrating that the nation had finally achieved some level of civility. Humor undermined this image and was seen accordingly as something that had to be contained or concealed.

My study demonstrates the ways in which painters and sculptors struggled to preserve a place in fine art for an ambitious and critical humor. They worked against conservative impulses that sought to channel humor into a restrictive set of normalizing guises or to ghettoize it as properly belonging to more mass forms of artistic production. Winslow Homer breaks with the hackneyed conventions of antebellum genre painting to establish the seriousness of humor, in effect theorizing its place in American art and culture; Enoch Wood Perry violently deconstructs humor’s capacity to inoculate citizens against the disruptive effects of difference; William Holbrook Beard runs humor underground, revealing the depths to which it had to be repressed; Augustus SaintGaudens invokes the ridiculous in his sublime and relentlessly humorless artistic statements; and John Haberle exploits humor’s protean shiftiness, pointing the way toward the high intellectual value that humor would achieve in art of the twentieth century.

Vicki Halper

James Renwick Senior Fellow in American Craft, Independent Scholar

Voices in Studio Crafts

My co-editor Diane Douglas and I are compiling a sourcebook of the writings and transcribed words of artists working in studio crafts in the United States between 1945 and 2000. The book, Voices in Studio Crafts, is a companion volume to a textbook on American crafts currently being written under the auspices of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design. Like the textbook, Voices focuses on social history—for example, issues of lifestyle, gender, regionalism, technology, and professionalism in the crafts. The Archives of American Art is a major source of relevant unpublished materials, such as transcribed interviews and artists’ papers (including letters to colleagues and dealers, exhibition statements, grant proposals, and conference presentations). The book will be published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Patricia Hills

Senior Fellow, Boston University

Painting Harlem Modern: The Art of Jacob Lawrence

The fellowship project aims to complete research for and commence writing of a book focused on key themes in the art of African American painter Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) that developed out of and gave pictorial image to modernist Harlem. There the modernism and modernity of the jazz age combined with cultural practices rooted in the Great Migration of two million African Americans who moved north and west during the two World Wars. With the publication of the Lawrence catalogue raisonné in 2001, we can now understand the full range of his oeuvre and can probe into the deep content of his art. This study will explore issues informing his Harlem community from the 1930s through the 1960s that had a lasting effect on Lawrence’s art. They include: African American storytelling and folk traditions; the rhetorical strategies of African American preachers; the “usable past” of ancestral African arts and vernacular Southern crafts, such as quilts; modernism and modernity as shaped by writers and artists of the New Negro movement in the 1920s; debates about the social responsibility of art within and apart from the government relief projects of the 1930s; and the development of a “blues” aesthetic. These issues will be incorporated into five chapters, each with a different approach: cultural, formal, geographical, iconographical, and sociopolitical. The chapters are: “Cultural Life in Harlem in the Late 1930s: The Context for the Development of Lawrence’s Expressive Cubism”; “The Harriet Tubman and Migration Series: Narrative Strategies, Pictorial Structure, and African American Storytelling”; “A Harlem Artist Confronts Southern Traditions and Southern Realities During the 1940s”; “The Mask Motif in the Work of Lawrence and His Contemporaries in the 1950s”; and “Lawrence and the Civil Rights Movement in the Late 1950s and 1960s.”

Kenji Kajiya

Predoctoral Fellow, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University/ University of Tokyo

Negotiating Modernism: Color-Field Painting and the Upheaval of Art Criticism in America, 1952-67

This research explores the ways in which five color-field painters_Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Frank Stella_negotiated the rise of modernist art criticism from the early 1950s through the late 1960s. Using the rich resources at the Smithsonian Institution, my project will redefine the relationship between color-field painting and a variety of critical practices, and make an important contribution to the scholarship of postwar American art and art criticism.

In recent discussions of art after abstract expressionism, color-field painting has tended to be eclipsed by Neo-Dada and pop art. Its waning presence in scholarship is due in part to current critical perceptions of Clement Greenberg, with whom the color-field painters have been closely associated. It is important to note, however, that these painters were also appreciated by other diverse groups: the New York School poets, minimalist artists, and various art critics and curators. Their views, which differ from the modernist interpretation advocated by Greenberg, also fostered the contexts in which the color-field painters emerged and prevailed in the history of postwar American painting.

My dissertation investigates how the color-field painters drew from several critical perspectives to construct meaning for their work and analyzes the degree of heterogeneity of color-field painting. Taking into account the manifold aspects of colorfield painting, I will reframe the painters’ relationship with modernist art criticism as one of diverse negotiation instead of unilateral dependence.

Rachel Leibowitz

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Constructing Window Rock: Landscape and the New Deal in the Capital of the Navajo Nation

This dissertation examines the built environment of Window Rock, Arizona, a town established in 1934 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to serve as the capital city of the Navajo reservation. The study explores the ways in which new building technologies, regional architectural styles, and open spaces served to inscribe cultural differences upon the town’s landscape. It also analyzes the manner in which this modern capital and notions of Navajo identity were presented to the “mainstream” American public by means of two displays in the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, D.C.: a diorama of the town on exhibit since 1937, and five murals painted in 1940 by Navajo artist Gerald Nailor (1917–1952). These works are then contrasted with depictions of tribal history in the Navajo Nation itself: Nailor’s eight murals painted in 1942 in the Tribal Council House at Window Rock and a series of contemporary dioramas displayed at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. The dissertation considers the Navajo capital_both the buildings and the spaces between and around them_as a primary source, together with paintings and sculptures, archival materials, and interviews with residents, in order to understand the government’s intentions toward Navajo people during the New Deal and the changing objectives of the Navajo Nation in the decades since that era.

Stephanie Mayer

Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow, Boston University

The Art of 'The Gift': Mount, Sully, Huntington, and the Antebellum Gift Book Industry

In 1836 Philadelphia publisher Carey and Hart released The Gift: A Christmas and New Year’s Present, a publication that would become one of the most successful gift book annuals of its kind during its ten-year run. Elaborately bound and filled with engravings, poetry, and prose by artists of the day, The Gift had gained such acclaim for both its literary and artistic contributions that in 1842 Graham’s Magazine declared it to be “the dial by which to learn the progress of the arts in America.” Published primarily with a female audience in mind, The Gift was widely consumed, becoming an undeniable force on the antebellum art scene.

This project considers The Gift (and the gift book industry more generally) within the broader framework of antebellum visual culture, assessing the position of women among the predominantly male audience of the art world. By investigating the work of the three most significant contributors to The Gift—Thomas Sully, William Sidney Mount, and Daniel Huntington—I will show how the context of the gift book influenced artistic production and directed the interpretive possibilities of their work. Because women rarely participated directly as patrons in the antebellum art market, their influence upon the development of the arts has been largely overlooked. Through their consumption of such media as illustrated gift book annuals, however, women played an under-recognized and vital role in the reception, interpretation, and circulation of art in the first half of the nineteenth century. This dissertation will provide a needed corrective to include women as a body of consumers and analyze the impact they had upon the direction of the arts in antebellum America. The pivotal intersections between art production, collecting, and the publishing industry discussed in this study will lend greater insight into the workings of the early-nineteenth-century art market.

 

Dorothy Moss

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware

Recasting the Copy: Original Paintings and Reproductions at the Dawn of American Mass Culture, ca. 1900

In 1858 Nathaniel Hawthorne lamented that copies after Raphael lacked “the subtle mystery of the original.” Since then the copy has had a contested critical reputation in the United States, particularly in the decades around 1900 when paintings were being reproduced in all media imaginable. During this watershed moment in American art, as major museums defined their missions and new media emerged and evolved at a rapid pace, heated debates about the meaning and uses of copies played out in popular literature, newspapers, and museum boardrooms. My project will investigate the value of copies and originals through a series of representative case studies, including museum acquisition policies, the intersection of forgery with trompe l’oeil painting, tableaux performances, silent film, and photographs of paintings in university galleries. These examples will allow me to disentangle the various meanings attached to reproductions at the dawn of mass culture and will provide the foundation for understanding the copy’s oscillating critical status today.

Xiomara Murray

Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Before the 'Mellon Gallery': Toward an American National Gallery of Art, 1811-1937

This dissertation considers three collectors whose donations mark important stages in the development of the first National Gallery of Art under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, from its legal inception in 1906 to its change of name in 1937. It looks at the roles played by Harriet Lane Johnston (1830–1903), Ralph Cross Johnson (1843–1923), and John Gellatly (1852–1931) in the creation of what is today the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I will analyze each donor’s motivation for collecting, approach and method to building a collection, and rationale for donation to national museum.

My project places the actions of these three donors within the broader context of the history of collecting in America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Close study of selected paintings from their collections will determine provenance, the basis for attribution at the time, as well as current critical opinion. I will review this information with an eye to these artists’ popularity in the art market at the turn of the century as recorded in sales catalogs and annual reviews of works sold in America and abroad. I will also examine the choice to bequeath or donate these collections to the nation rather than to a private art institution as it relates to the artistic, intellectual, and nationalistic movement toward an American National Gallery of Art in the nineteenth century.

My goal with this project is to determine the factors contributing to the need for a National Gallery of Art, the role of specific donors in shaping the political and cultural responsibilities of such an institution, and the fate of their actions in modern art history.

Heidi Nasstrom Evans

James Renwick Predoctoral Fellow in American Craft, University of Maryland

The Aesthetic Evolution of Simple Living in Jane Whitehead's Built Environs (1861-1955)

Simple living in the period 1860–1930 can be described as a transatlantic movement, albeit an unorganized and highly individualistic one. Those involved sought spiritual and physical health and transformation in union with nature in rural, anti-materialist settings governed by aesthetics of simplicity and utility. These settings were removed from the urban industrialized landscape and its purportedly debased society. Advocates of simple living often supported concomitant progressive causes which they integrated into their lifestyle, including Arts and Crafts, socialism, feminism, and the democratization of personal relationships.

For much of her long life, American artist Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead (1858–1955) lived a simple life in artistic, rural settings. From 1892 until 1929, she did this collaboratively with her British husband, Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead. Born into Philadelphia’s patrician class, Jane Whitehead left the United States shortly after the great 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition to study art in England and Europe, most notably at Oxford with John Ruskin and in Paris at the Académie Julian. After a decade of fast-paced society life in the 1880s, she began experimenting with simple living in Albury, Guildford, England. By the time she met her future husband in Florence, Italy, in 1891, she was ready to adopt the simple life in earnest.

The Whiteheads dreamed of forming an art convent founded on principles associated with simple living and Arts and Crafts ideals drawn from Ruskin (both studied with him at Oxford) and their acquaintance William Morris. They pursued their dream first in Montecito, California, where they lived from 1894 to 1903 and founded the Arcady school, a Sloyd school of manual art for local children. Supplementing normal public school education, the Arcady school offered studies in woodwork, drawing, and clay modeling. Here, training in the arts and crafts was intended to develop the mental, moral, and physical powers, rather than the practical skills, of children. In 1903 the Whiteheads realized their art convent in Woodstock, New York, where they opened the Byrdcliffe art school—a catalyst for a century of experimentation in the arts in Woodstock—which continues to operate today. A variety of arts and crafts were taught and practiced, including weaving, modeling, design, woodcarving, photography, pottery, painting, carpentry, and metalwork, including jewelry and enameling.

This project will culminate in a doctoral dissertation that analyzes the philosophy of simple living in a transatlantic context and traces its aesthetic evolution in the artistic environments Jane Whitehead established throughout her lifetime.

Susan Power

Sara Roby Predoctoral Fellow in Twentieth-Century American Realism, Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

New World Surrealisms

My doctoral work critically reappraises surrealism in the Americas during the 1940s and 1950s, taking up issues of migration and cultural translation while reassessing the circulation and reception of surrealist artistic production in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. As James Clifford has observed, surrealism traveled and was changed along its trajectories. Surrealist traffic went beyond artist-initiated journeys or imposed exile under the threat of Nazi deportation. Printed reproductions of surrealist works circulated through artistic journals such as View and VVV in New York, DYN in Mexico, and Tropiques in Martinique, and artwork traveled to galleries, institutions, and private collections throughout the Americas. Related exhibition catalogs, reviews, and correspondence further multiplied the channels of communication.

Drawing upon cultural anthropology and postcolonial theory, I explore how the surrealist movement was presented, represented, appropriated, or hybridized as it ventured into new territories. Non-European artists, such as Joseph Cornell, were fellow travelers yet remained marginal to the movement; their encounters and interactions further reveal the transcultural energies that shaped the identity of surrealism. In rereading surrealism_not from its Parisian roots, its European center, but rather from the routes that led to the peripheral sites of the movement’s international exhibitions_I investigate the ways that surrealist strategies of display operated to create a local inbetween space that transcended the international. My thesis argues that the exhibitions enacted a transnational or even postnational dimension underlying the surrealist project. This examination enlarges upon previous scholarly understanding of post–World War II surrealism by tracing and analyzing the dynamic forces that transformed the movement along its New World itineraries.

Danielle Schwartz

Douglass Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University

Design for Sight and Sound: John Vassos, A Biography

Television debuted to the North American public at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York when Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared on the RCA TRK-12. This postdoctoral study will expand my dissertation and re-examine the archives of John Vassos (1898-1985), the Greek-born designer of this “first” television set. My study draws upon archival materials housed in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and National Museum of American History to further understanding of the cultural and economic forces that shaped the emergence of this new medium, revealing the intersections between modernist art and industrial design in America. As RCA’s lead industrial designer for over 40 years, Vassos was involved in the design and promotion of the company’s major electronic products, including radios, televisions, television cameras, and computers, as well as the creation of new spaces carved out for use of these devices. The “living room of the future,” for example, was featured at the 1939 World’s Fair and in RCA’s television studios in markets in North and South America. Vassos’s career spans the emergence of central new forms of mass media in the twentieth century and provides a template for understanding the economic and social issues surrounding their introduction. My biography of John Vassos will be the first on this important modernist illustrator, interior decorator, and industrial designer, who also created scathing critiques of American mass culture in his book illustrations of the 1920s and 1930s.

James Wechsler

Postdoctoral Fellow, Independent Scholar

Modernism and International Communism: Hugo Gellert and the Artists of the Communist Party, USA

Certain artists who were active in the Communist Party, such as George Grosz, John Heartfield, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, are important figures in the modernist canon; yet American communist artists in general have been excluded. This omission presents a skewed, incomplete picture of a movement that was international in scope. During the 1920s American artists such as Hugo Gellert, Louis Lozowick, William Gropper, and Maurice Becker established contact with artists in Russia, France, Germany, and Mexico through the illustrated leftist cultural magazines the Liberator and New Masses. By late in the decade these and other American artists were frequently publishing their work in foreign periodicals such as Monde, edited by Henri Barbusse, and Knueppel, the German satirical journal most associated with Grosz. In the early 1930s, through the Moscowbased International Association of Revolutionary Artists (IBRA), members of the American John Reed Clubs were in contact with Party-affiliated organizations throughout the world. These included the French Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Revolutionnaires (l’AEAR), the German Assoziation Revolutionärer Bildender Künstler Deutschlands (ARBKD), and the Mexican Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (LEAR).

During my postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I will continue to explore these international connections and respond to the widely accepted argument that modernism and communism were divergent, incompatible ideologies.

 

2004–2005 Appointments Still in Residence

Kimberly Curtiss

Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow, Rutgers University

Points in Between: Painting Native America, 1830-1900

This dissertation explores the visual construction of race in nineteenth-century representations of Native Americans. Specifically, it investigates the role that images of the “half-blood” played within the complex matrix of racial and cultural identities in nineteenth-century America. An examination of hybrid identities poses interesting questions about the mutability of seemingly strict racial categories, enriching our understanding of Euro-American conceptions of racial and cultural identity. I organize my research and writing around three ways in which this representational problem was manifested: the half-blood in genre paintings and portraits, images of the EuroAmericanized “civilized” Indian, and depictions of both the Euro and Native American in Plains Indian ledger art. This project builds upon years of important research on the Native American in art historical, cultural historical, and literary scholarship. In addressing issues of hybrid identity in these images, however, I aim to go beyond the present scholarship by exploring the under-examined subject of the half-blood. Through a close analysis of art objects and their production and reception, this project will illuminate the role of this racially and culturally liminal figure within the context of nineteenth-century expansionist ideology. My exploration of how these images functioned in the construction of identities for both Euro and Native Americans participates in and will contribute to the current discussions on American identity politics, the cultural history of identity, and Native American studies.

Guy Jordan

Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, University of Maryland

Consuming Images: The Visual Culture of Virtue and Vice in Antebellum America

 

My project undertakes a wide-ranging reconsideration of how antebellum publics consumed and were consumed by images. I explore the relationship between narrative and vision, and the construction of vision as a somatic process akin to eating and drinking. Within this framework, virtue and vice were medically construed, with distinct pathologies and physical symptoms that linked the health of the body to that of the body politic. Oft repeated moralizing narratives found in temperance melodramas and popular print culture created a common set of expectations that conditioned how audiences understood images such as Lily Martin Spencer’s Domestic Happiness and John Sartain’s The Happy Family. Vision, informed by the discursive strategies of reform physiology, was pharmaceutically conceived—therapeutic when used with prescriptive care, but a dangerous narcotic on its own terms. By closely attending to the formal and narrative structure of antebellum visual culture, my dissertation recontextualizes works of art such as Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire and Hiram Powers’s The Greek Slave within this medico-moral milieu where the overstimulation of the imagination led to delusions, debility, and madness.