One of the great advantages of living in New York is vitality of the artistic academic community, and the opportunities for deep conversation, enriched understanding and continuing education.
These thoughts ran through my mind as I had the pleasure of watching Ulf Dingerdissen, of the University of Goettingen, Germany, win the Eleventh Annual Graduate Student Symposium in 19th Century Art for his paper and presentation, The Practical Realization of Romantic Art Theory: The Riepenhausen Brothers and Their Etchings for The Life And Death of Saint Genevieve.
During his presentation, Dingerdissen demonstrated that when Franz and Johannes Riepenhausen published their cycle of fourteen etchings for Ludwig Tieck’s drama Leben und Tod der Heiligen Genoveva (1806), Romantic art moved from a purely literary sphere to include representational art. Dingerdissen compared these etchings during his presentation with writings of the most influential Romantic art theorists, demonstrating that the Riepenhausen brothers translated Romantic art theory into practice. It was a remarkable performance as young Dingerdissen fielded many questions from a room of dedicated and welcoming scholars.
Dingerdissen was joined by nine other young scholars at an all-day symposium hosted by Dahesh Museum of Art; the symposium was co-sponsored by the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (AHNCA). The Dahesh bestowed the Dahesh Museum Art Prize for Best Paper, a gift from the Mervat Zahid Cultural Foundation.
This year, there were over 55 submissions for the prize – with nine making the cut for yesterday’s public presentation. Dingerdissen’s paper will be published in an upcoming issue of Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide.
The nine speakers were introduced and their sessions moderated by Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, of Seaton Hall University, Peter Trippi, President of the AHNCA, and Patricia Mainardi, of the Graduate Center, CUNY.
“The quality of work we get always astounds me,” Chu told your correspondent during a break. “This symposium has become an increasingly important event in the art scholarship world because the papers are so good. The atmosphere of the symposium is also highly charged because both scholars and alumni attend and ask probing questions and provide a collegial atmosphere for group learning.”
Handlin, Slavkin and Jasinski Talk During Break
Aside from Dingerdissen, many of the presenters made a particular impression. Mary Slavkin, Graduate Center, City University of New York, used statistical analysis of reviews and catalogs to make revisionist points in Statistically Speaking: Exhibitors at the Salons of the Rose + Croix. Slavkin raised the point of fame and celebrity during an artists’ lifetime, and how (or if) that means anything to the historical record. I found her use of scientific methodology to make aesthetic points interesting and refreshing.
Also terrific was the presentation by Emily Handlin, Brown University, The Naked, Absolute Fact: Photography and Other Famous Truth-Tellers. In her presentation, Handlin demonstrated how Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs from Animal Locomotion (1887) raised questions about the relationships between visual technologies, perception, and knowledge. Handlin made wonderful use of composite photos that were used in the 19th Century to prove various points, and discussed how the use of them continues, to one degree or another, to this day.
Your correspondent was also deeply impressed by Kylynn Jasinski, University of Pittsburgh, and her presentation The Aryan Contribution: Visualizing Race Through Architectural History in Charles Garnier’s History of Human Habitation. In her paper, Jasinski writes of Charles Garnier’s display at the 1889 Universal Exposition, which integrated then-contemporary theories of race to show the history of the Aryan migration through architecture. Never missing an opportunity to talk about the American Old West, your correspondent spent a wonderful few minutes after the lecture taking with Ms. Jasinski about the Native Americans who performed at various world expositions with Buffalo Bill Cody.
There were also wonderful contributions by: Kara Fiedorek, Rachel Newman, Kanitra Fletcher, Russell Stephens and Ágnes Sebestyén.
Finally, kudos again to the Dahesh for making their space so much more than a mere museum store. From Salon Thursdays to events like this, the Dahesh continually looks for ways to drive the relevance of 19th Century Art, underscoring a deep and abiding commitment to education, outreach and scholarship.