Senior Seminar Brainstorming: Art History

John Singer Sargent, "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" 1886

If you had asked me a month ago what I was going to write my senior seminar paper in Art History, I would have replied with a vague answer which ultimately landed me between the years 1350-1650 in the Renaissance. However, in Florence, I’ve been taking assessment of my life and graduate school plans. As much as I love the Renaissance, I’m not entirely sure if I want to commit at the age of 20 to being a Renaissance scholar. Or at least commit to getting a graduate degree in Renaissance Art History. So in an effort to expand my future options, I’ve expanded my current options.

Instead of forcing myself to find inspiration in Renaissance art, I am going to work for the rest of the semester to find a more Modern research project. The combination of theory that I enjoy and available guidance in Modern art history Agnes Scott’s department will aide in easing my anxiety over the project.

The other day during a lunch on the piazza I wrote down a list of every artist I’ve ever done major research on, or artists that I feel that my independent readings and studies have prepared me for. It looked like this:

  • Barberini Tapestries
  • Bernini-Apollo and Daphne
  • Julie Heffernan
  • Barbara Kruger
  • Emily Jacir
  • Jacques Louis David-The Rape of The Sabines
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Jasper Johns
  • Yasumasa Morimura
  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Mona Hatoum
  • Giotto di Bondone-The Arena Chapel
  • John Singer Sargent
  • Fra Angelico
  • Caravaggio
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Max Ernst
  • Dorothea Tanning
  • Fratelli Alinari

That is a really long list to brainstorm.

So I then tried to narrow down the list to artists that I am actually interested in writing on again. That looked something more like this:

  • Julie Heffernan
  • Emily Jacir
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Jasper Johns
  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • John Singer Sargent
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Max Ernst
  • Dorothea Tanning
  • Fratelli Alinari

But which of these artists do I actually have a research question for? That would be the next list generated.

  • Dorothea Tanning: I am honestly not that familiar with the scholarship on her work. But that is one of my goals. Her process and her technique thrill me, and I want to learn more about what is being said about her work, specifically the gendered aspect of it, despite her personal protestations. Max Ernst is similar situation for me. Photocollage was my favorite segment of my History of Photography class, but I need to familiarize myself more with scholarship around Ernst and Dada. I am interested in Tanning and Ernst’s portrayal of themselves as  a non-collaborative artist couple, or a couple who is together who just happens to be artists. But that interest really stretches away from the images, and I struggle with art history when it is focused on biographical readings.
  • John Singer Sargent: These questions are probably my strongest so far. How does the Victorian construction of childhood inform Sargent’s portraits of children? How do they differ from earlier portraits of children, as well as Sargent’s own portraits of adults and his contemporaries? I am also interested in Sargent’s liminal place between French Modern and British Academic painting.
  • Cindy Sherman: Definitely looking at her later pieces like the History Portraits
  • Julia Margaret Cameron: I am really interested in her construction images of women as saints and biblical figures
  • Fratelli Alinari: I almost wrote my final paper in History of Photography on the construction of Italy in the Anglo-American mind through Fratelli Alinari photographs so that would be interesting to explore further.

So that is where I am right now. I have the entirety of Art History to explore for this project, but I think these interests helped me narrow it down so that I can begin to do some research and look at images and brainstorm even more.

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2 thoughts on “Senior Seminar Brainstorming: Art History

  1. Emma, what a thrilling blog you have here. It is right up my alley. I maintain an art-history blog (elliottingotham.wordpress.com) which you might enjoy. Please check it out, and follow it if you’re interested. I’m looking forward to following yours now.

    Best wishes! Elliott

  2. I have been a frustrated art historian all my life! More power to you as you pursue your research! My blog here is a source of great pleasure!

    Best wishes. Elliott (elliottingotham.wordpress.com)

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