In the eighteenth annual Graduate Program Symposium held at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the twelve students in the Williams College/Clark Graduate Program in the History of Art, class of 2013, presented papers as part of the final qualification for their M.A. degrees on Friday, May 31. The program started at 9:30 am and concluded at 6 pm.
Graduate students spoke for twenty minutes each, with a discussion period following each group of three.
In the morning, Elisabeth Lobkowicz presented “Bruegel’s Pastures of Plenty,” in which she addressed the Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s individual adaptation of a humorous and fantastical utopian tradition. John Witty looked closely at the sinopia technique in his paper, “Into the Wall: Sinopie and the Meaning of Making,” a lesser known drawing method of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, emphasizing the central role that drawing played in the studio practice of early Renaissance artists. In “Veronica’s Veil and the Divine Image Maker,” Antongiulio Sorgini considered Giorgio Vasari’s Christ on the Way to Calvary and its relationship to the place where it has hung since it was completed in 1572: the Buonarotti chapel in the Florentine church of Santa Croce.
In the early afternoon, Ginia Sweeney presented “Ungendered Lines: Michelangelo’s Cleopatra,” in which she examined how a c. 1533 drawing of Cleopatra by Michelangelo complicates early modern gender roles and elucidates the intimate, mysterious relationship between the artist and a young Roman nobleman. Rebecca Goldstein explored alternative avenues of meaning in her paper entitled “Schiele’s Women” by proposing that Egon Schiele’s drawings and studio practice were actually empowering to his female models, rather than exploiting them. Natalie Dupêcher concluded the session with her presentation “Martin Kippenberger and the Comedy of Citation.” Dupêcher focused on three series dating from 1989 to 1991, exploring how Kippenberger’s work invokes other artists to explore questions of authorial presence.
In the afternoon, Cathy M. Zhu presented “Imagined Portraiture and the Chinese Garden,” in which she explored the aesthetic and philosophical affinities between the artist Qiu Ying’s (1494–1552) paintings of famous historical figures and their settings in Chinese gardens. In “From the Academy to the Asylum: Van Gogh’s Copies,” Danielle Canter examined an unusual series of drawings Vincent van Gogh produced after his own paintings in the summer of 1888, within the broader context of the artist’s lifelong copying practice. Isabelle Gillet shared archival research in her paper “Who Is She? Sargent’s Elusive Mlle J.,” settling many of the most basic questions about the sitter in John Singer Sargent’s painting long known as Mlle Roger-Jourdain—including her real name and life dates—thus focusing on Sargent’s effective portrayal of the mysteries of a child’s personality.
In the final session of the day, Sarah Mirseyedi presented her paper “Sargent’s Moroccan Whites: Painting and the Photographic Monochrome,” an exploration of the aesthetic choices in John Singer Sargent’s Fumée d’ambre gris in the context of the artist’s engagement with photography during his travels in North Africa, questioning the place of this painting in a visual culture dominated by photographic images of travel. Elizabeth Rooklidge gave a presentation entitled “Cobwebbed Waves of the Divine: Wallace Berman and the Verifax Collage.” By performing a close reading of Wallace Berman’s Verifax collage Radio/Aether, Rooklidge revealed the work’s thematic thread of spiritual pursuit, and the value of dedicating such sustained attention to this under-examined series. The last paper of the day, Martha Joseph’s “Aligherio Boetti’s Afghan Embroideries, looked at one of Italian artist Alighiero Boetti’s embroideries sewn by unknown Afghan women in 1989, opening up questions surrounding the conceptual and physical act of artistic making.