Professor & Graduate Program Director
In my work, I aim to build new historical and conceptual frameworks for understanding modernism: its theories, its objects, its reception and its continuing relevance for contemporary art. My primary research interests are concentrated upon “The Long Nineteenth-Century” (roughly 1789 to the end of World War I), a period when so many of the ideas and art forms that have shaped our culture emerged: Darwin’s theory of evolution, the study of psychology, film, photography, new models of time, as well as a host of radical new forms of visual art and literature.
Both my teaching and research are dedicated to finding a way to demonstrate how those seismic cultural, social, and psychological changes are embedded in the visual structures of the most innovative historical objects we study. Many of my projects have revolved around identifying the traces of how artists collectively imagined the relation of the ever-changing 19th century “self” to its private and public worlds.
The relation between self and other is at the core of my recent book, Cézanne’s Other: The Portraits of Hortense (University of California Press, 2009), winner of the Motherwell Book award from the Dedalus Foundation.
Work on Cezanne continues, as I wrestle with how exactly his drawings—works in graphite or charcoal, without watercolor—can be related in a revealing way to his oil paintings.
A forthcoming chapter in Thérèse Dolan’s edited volume, Perspectives on Manet (forthcoming, Ashgate Press) on the artist’s portrait of Victorine Meurent of 1862, demonstrates my commitment to using contemporary art to see historical works afresh. I ask why this relatively small portrait continues to exert an impact that rivals that of recent large format color photographs and watercolors of the face.
Two new research projects, already underway, build upon prior work, but expand both my range of interests and the media I study. The first is a trans-national study of John Singer Sargent’s later portraits and genre scenes, whose working title is John Singer Sargent and the Unmaking of History. Sargent was featured in my first book on interiority, Body, Place and Self in Nineteenth Century Painting (Cambridge University Press, 2000), as were Degas, Vuillard, and Sickert. see Contesting Femininity: Vuillard's Family Pictures and Resisting Narrative: The Problem of Edgar Degas's Interior.
Sargent’s Madame X is discussed in “Painting Skin,” which was included in Susan Shifrin’s 2007 Re-Presenting Women (Ashgate Press)
I ask: what happens when a female subject’s lack of beauty comes to define the reception of her portrait. see: http://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/theme/9/index.html and http://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/theme/13/index.html (Channel 13 series on The Portrait and the Body
The second new project, provisionally entitled The Medical Portrait, 1886-1946, will address the very porous boundary between the “objective” and the “aesthetic” in the visual culture of medicine from around 1886 to 1946. see: Association of Art Historians. This project has been reinforced by my collaboration with Professor Tanya Sheehan, in our Rutgers course “The Art of the Body: The Visual Culture of Medicine.”
“Before and after” photographs of neurasthenic patients in 1880’s England; casebook photographs from an asylum for the middle classes built in Surrey around the same time; pictorial narratives of plastic surgeries taken in the years after World War I; and early films on mental illness were all hybrid forms of representation in which the expectations of medical objectivity vied with the aesthetic conventions of portraiture. see: Welcome Library and Museum . My participation as a faculty fellow in two different research institutes at Rutgers—the Institute of Research on Women and the Center for Cultural Analysis has been crucial to the development of this topic, as I had challenging interlocutors from literary criticism, gender studies, philosophy, history of science, anthropology, sociology, and cognitive science.
"Emotion, Color, Cézanne (The Portraits of Hortense)" Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide (Autumn 2004): http://19thc-artworldwide.org/autumn_04/articles/sidl.html
"Breaking the Mold," Zimmerli Art Museum, Exhibition (Oct. 23, 2005 - March 12, 2006): http://www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu/exhibitions/breakingmold.html
Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas, "The Milliners," The Getty Museum, New Acquisition: http://www.getty.edu/art/acquisitions/milliners.html
Rutgers University, Department of Women's Studies
Undergraduate Classes Taught:
-Rethinking the Portrait: seminar. A consideration of an historical form that has enjoyed a resurgence in contemporary art, considering American and European images from 1800 to the present.
--The Art of the Body: The Visual Culture of Medicine (with Tanya Sheehan): An interdisciplinary course about the intersection of science and visual culture, intended to appeal to undergraduates from the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and fine arts.
--Realism: undergraduate lecture. The course begins with the art of the French Revolution and concludes with the archetypal “realist”, Gustave Courbet. Works of art are located in larger historical and theoretical contexts.
--Impressionism: The emphasis is on the emergence of leisure to 19th century painting, as well as the political and architectural changes in Paris that made it such a key subject in early modernity.
Graduate Classes Taught:
-The Body in 19th Century Art: The representation of the body is historicized and located in a wider cultural, social, and economic context.
--Portraiture: Theory and Practice: An examination of historical and contemporary theories about portraiture, in relation to the work of modern artists in a variety of media.
--Methods in the History of Art: Introduction to key historical and theoretical texts.