Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History
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OSK/Van Gogh Museum Visiting Fellow in the History of 19th Century Art
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2 t/m 7 Juni 2019

Tradition and Identity: The Nation in 19th-Century Art


From 2-7June 2019 Research Master’s students in Art History and related fields will have the opportunity to participate in the annual Van Gogh Museum Visiting Fellow in the History of Nineteenth-Century Art seminar, sponsored by the Van Gogh Museum and the University of Amsterdam.


The aim of the Van Gogh Museum Visiting Fellow in the History of Nineteenth-Century Art seminar is to provide MA students with the opportunity to study a single yet wide-ranging subject in nineteenth-century art through an intensive one-week workshop taught by a leading scholar in the field and supported by the Van Gogh Museum. The seminar will introduce students to important issues in the study of nineteenth-century art and provide an impulse for further research. Its aim is to encourage interest in various aspects of the discipline, and to provide students not only with factual information, but more importantly with new methodological and theoretical perspectives on this important period in the history of art.


This year’s Visiting Fellow is Prof. Neil McWilliam, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Art and Art History in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University (USA). Neil McWilliam received his PhD from the University of Oxford. His publications include Dreams of Happiness. Social Art & the French Left 1830-1850; Monumental Intolerance, Jean Baffier, A Nationalist Sculptor in fin-de-siècle France; and A Bibliography of Salon Criticism in Paris from the July Monarchy to the Second Republic 1831-1851. His research focuses on the visual culture of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France, and in particular, on public sculpture, the Academy, art criticism, and the inter- relationship between aesthetics and political ideologies during the period. In recent years, McWilliam has published widely on the relationship between conservative politics and the arts in France, exploring the impact of nationalist groupings on artistic production, critical writing and art history in the decades before the First World War. His ongoing interest in the career of Symbolist painter Emile Bernard involves a particular focus on this artist's turn in the 1890s towards a strongly traditionalist artistic practice, and its ramifications for understanding the relationship between tradition and innovation in fin-de-siècle French art.


As nationalism re-emerges as a potent and disruptive ideology in contemporary Europe, an examination of its impact as a cultural force in the 19th century is timely both in terms of the current political climate and in relation to evolving debates in art history and the humanities. Since the publication of studies such as Kenneth Silver’s Esprit de Corps. The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War in 1989, art historians working on a range of European countries and a plethora of topics have discerned nationalist sub-texts operating across fields such as landscape and history painting and in contexts from early art-historical scholarship to popular artistic journalism. Arguably, though, we still lack a developed set of tools to critically analyze different manifestations of nationalism in the visual arts. Going beyond familiar invocations of “imagined communities” and “land and the dead [la terre et les morts]”, this seminar series sets out to question assumptions about the historical role of nationalism in nineteenth-century art, and to elaborate a theoretical framework for approaching the ways in which the nation and its cultural traditions have been assimilated into the discipline of art history. While focusing centrally on France, particularly in the period from 1870 to 1914, we will look at relevant artworks, artistic movements, critical writings, and administrative interventions from across Europe and North America.


The seminar will consist of three sessions of three hours each, plus an afternoon excursion. A public introductory lecture will take place at the Van Gogh Museum on Sunday, 2 June. The seminar meetings will take place at the Van Gogh Museum (Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Friday from 1-4 p.m. Exact location to be announced.) The date and time of the excursion will be announced before the start of the seminar.


Students will be supplied with the themes of the sessions and a list of readings in advance (mid-January). These will introduce the material and issues of the seminar and are required.


Extra information

Research MA students can participate in the seminar for credit by following a group tutorial during the second semester (6 EC). On the basis of the readings supplied, tutorial students will be expected to develop a research question and proposal, plus a bibliography on their chosen topic for a paper of 3,000-3,500 words, on which their grade will be based. During the spring semester (blocks A and B) these students will meet three times together with the supervising lecturer (Dr. Rachel Esner) to discuss their proposed project. Before the start and after the end of the seminar students will then be expected to work on their projects independently. The final paper will be due at the end of June (date to be announced). Exact instructions will follow in January.


Please note that the tutorial is strictly limited to 5 students, and that preference will be given to Research Master’s students with an expressed interest in nineteenth-century art. Admission follows on a first come, first serve basis.


To register, please contact Dr. Rachel Esner: r.esner@uva.nl (putting “VGM Visiting Fellow” in the subject line). Please supply a short statement of motivation. The deadline for registration is 14 December 2018.


Auditors (MA students and professionals) are also welcome.

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