Mellon Research Initiative: Events

Art History and the Art of Description

Video from the conference is available hereOpen link in new window.

October 4-5, 2013
Organized by Jas Elsner, Humfrey Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University and Visiting Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago

This colloquium was designed for art historians, and art history as a discipline, to reflect on our own practice in massaging the object (visual or tangible, in two or three dimensions) into a form susceptible to argument and verbal analysis. This is a subtle, interpretative business but one that in general is taught and reflected upon too little. The particular thrust of an argument (feminist, e.g.) will have a significant effect on the words chosen and the structure of description used in making a work of art usable in the discussion. That raises a set of issues, ethical as well as aesthetic, art-critical as well as historical, methodological and intermedial, that remain both vibrant and urgent in our collective and individual practice. Notably, there are real problems about what is taken for granted as a collectively agreed set of starting points (these of course change with some speed through history). Likewise there is an interesting disjunction between a realm ofseeing— which is what art-historical work in part celebrates and throws light on — and a realm ofwriting,which is what art historians do for a living when we are not teaching.

Speakers:

Svetlana Alpers, Professor Emerita, History of Art Department, University of California – Berkeley
Leonard Barkan, Class of 1943 University Professor; Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
Thomas Crow, Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art, Institute of Fine Arts; Associate Provost for the Arts, New York University
Michael Fried, Professor, J. R. Herbert Boone Chair in the Humanities; Professor of Humanities and the History of Art, Johns Hopkins University
David Joselit, Carnegie Professor, History of Art, Yale University
Alexander Nemerov, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University
Verity Platt, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, Cornell University
Dell Upton, Professor, Department of Art History, University of California – Los Angeles

AGENDA

Friday, October 4, 2013

1:30pm
Registration

2:00pm
Introduction and welcome: Patricia Rubin, Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Jas Elsner, Humfrey Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology and Art, University of Oxford; Visiting Professor of Art History, University of Chicago

2:15pm
David Joselit, Carnegie Professor, History of Art, Yale University: Where is Painting?

3:15pm
Thomas Crow, Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art; Institute of Fine Arts, Associate Provost for the Arts, New York University: The Last Sculptures of John Chamberlain: Do We Describe Them, or Do They Describe Us?

4:15pm
Break

4:30pm
Svetlana Alpers, Professor Emerita, History of Art Department, University of California – Berkeley: It's All About Looking

5:30pm
Discussion

6:00pm
Reception

Saturday, October 5, 2013

9:00am
Coffee and registration

9:30am
Michael Fried, Professor, J. R. Herbert Boone Chair in the Humanities; Professor of Humanities and the History of Art, Johns Hopkins University: “Description”

10:30am
Leonard Barkan, Class of 1943 University Professor; Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University: Fictions of Ekphrasis 

11:30am
Break

12:00pm
Mellon Student grantee presentations:
Joseph Ackley, IFA PhD candidat: Modern and Medieval Classifications of Precious-Metal Alloys in Western Medieval Metalwork
Kara Fiedorek, IFA PhD candidate: F. Holland Day's The Seven Words: Description as/and Art in Pictorialist Photography
Katerina Harris, IFA PhD candidate: Confronting Late Medieval Funerary Sculpture
Brett Lazer, IFA PhD candidate: Applications of Computer Text Analysis for Art History and Historiography
Ileana Selejan, IFA PhD candidate: Fragile objects – Esthetics, Ethics and War Photography

1:15pm
Lunch break

2:00pm
Dell Upton, Professor, Department of Art History, University of California – Los Angeles: On a Certain Blindness in Architectural Historians

3:00pm
Verity Platt, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, Cornell University:  Winckelmann's Pharmacy: Description and the phantasia of restoration

4:00pm
Break

4:15pm
Alexander Nemerov, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University: Swimming:  Thomas Eakins, JFK, and November 22, 1963

5:15pm
Closing discussion

Video Spotlight


Alexander Nemerov, Swimming: Thomas Eakins, JFK, and November 22, 1963.

Watch the entire conference here

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