The Research and Academic Program presents “How to Look with Soft Eyes”: Darby English on Description as Method, the first episode of Season 2 of its podcast, In the Foreground: Conversations on Art & Writing.
Caroline Fowler, Starr Director of the Research and Academic Program at the Clark, speaks with Darby English, the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. In this conversation, they discuss Darby’s early affinity with Dutch Golden Age painting, his belief in the vital role description plays in art historical writing, and the necessity of developing “soft,” slow looking in opposition to the velocity that characterizes culture production and our lived experiences more broadly. Darby also reflects on the relation between his scholarly approach and that of Michael Ann Holly, whom he assisted in establishing the Research and Academic Program at the Clark.
Darby English is Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History and associate faculty in both the Department of Visual Arts and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago. His work addresses subjects in cultural studies as well as modern and contemporary American and European art produced since the First World War. Publications include three monographs, To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror (Yale, 2019), 1971: A Year in the Life of Color (University of Chicago, 2016), and How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (MIT, 2007), along with three edited volumes. Darby worked with Michael Ann Holly to create the Research and Academic Program in the late 1990s, and from 2013 to 2015 he returned to serve as director of RAP. The College Art Association awarded Darby the 2020 Frank Jewett Mather Award, and he will deliver the 2020–2021 West Memorial Lecture at the Stanford Humanities Center.