UC Berkeley History of Art Department



  • Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle The Sower 2015 India ink, acrylic paint, and polyfilm on wood panel 11 x 14 inches Courtesy of the Artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery

    African American Art History: Then and Now

    Steven Nelson, UCLA

    This keynote lecture will be preceded by a reception and followed on Friday, March 17, by an all-day symposium on Black | Art | Futures: African Diasporic Art Histories. Steven Nelson is Professor of African and African American Art and Director of the UCLA Center for African Studies.

    Co-organized by the Departments of History of Art and African American Studies

    Sponsored by:

    H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies
    Department of African American Studies
    Department of History of Art
    UC Consortium for Black Studies in California
    Townsend Center for the Humanities
    Arts Research Center
    The Black Room

  • Treasuring Histories: Writing Histories with Objects in the Medieval Treasuries

    Avinoam Shalem

  • Gualterus Arsenius, 1563 Armillary Sphere, Brussels, Museum of Fine Arts

    Materialised Knowledge in Renaissance Art and Science: The Production and Representation of Flemish Scientific Instruments

    Koenraad Van Cleempoel

    Scientific instruments of the renaissance period well represent the concept of "materialised knowledge." They are carriers of ideas as well as very elegant and refined objects. The lecture will discuss astrolabes, globes, sundials and armillary spheres with a particular emphasis on the Flemish context: between c. 1525 and c. 1580 the university city of Louvain became Europe's most important center for instrument making partly due to the research and technical skills of Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) and Gemma Frisius (1508-1555). This high reputation is due in equal measure to the combination of the beauty and the precision of these instruments. It is this perfect harmony of aesthetics and science that made the Louvain instruments so sought after in the European market. The lecture will also discuss their representation and meaning in contemporary paintings.

    Koenraad Van Cleempoel studied art history in Louvain, Madrid and London where he received his PhD at the Warburg Institute. He was Sackler Fellow at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich where he catalogued their collection of astrolabes (Oxford UP) and research fellow at the Institute for the History of Science, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. Scientific instruments of the Latin West between c. 1400 and 1650 are his field of research. In recent years he also published on adaptive reuse of heritage sites. He is professor in art history and vice dean at the Faculty of Architecture in Hasselt University (Belgium).

  • Five Buddhas crown, MG. 17781, Guiyijun Period (848-1036), second half of tenth century, ink and color on paper, 28.7 x 54 cm., originally from Dunhuang, now in the Musée Guimet

    Buddhist Maṇḍalas and Narratives of Enlightenment

    Michelle C. Wang, Georgetown University

    Throughout the twentieth century, scholarly and popular interpretations of Buddhist maṇḍalas emphasized their status as expressions of the human psyche. By virtue of their circular form, they were considered to represent the wholeness of the self. Shifting the discourse from one focused upon the human subject to one that instead places the Buddha’s experience at the forefront, this talk analyzes eighth to tenth century Buddhist maṇḍalas from Dunhuang (Gansu Province, China) as embodiments of the Buddha’s own awakening, in particular narratives of enlightenment that emerged within the context of esoteric Buddhism. Furthermore, the mapping of Buddhist maṇḍalas onto the architectural space of cave shrines at Dunhuang underscores the subjective nature of vision that was key not only to the performative restaging of the Buddha’s awakening, but also of the transformation from bodhisattva to Buddhahood.

    Michelle C. Wang is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University. She is a specialist in the Buddhist visual culture of medieval China, in particular, mural and portable paintings from Silk Road sites. She has authored articles on changing conceptions of maṇḍalas in Tang China and paired images in Buddhist art, and recently completed a book manuscript titled Maṇḍalas in the Making: The Visual Culture of Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang. Her research has been supported by grants from the Asian Cultural Council, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the Association for Asian Studies. 

  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard, <i>The Love Letter</i>, ca. 1770

    "Love, Trust, Risk: Epistolary Pictures in Eighteenth-Century France"

    Nina Dubin

    Nina L. Dubin is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she has taught since receiving her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a specialist in eighteenth-century French art and the author of Futures & Ruins: Eighteenth-Century Paris and the Art of Hubert Robert (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010; 2012). Her work has been supported by institutions including the Getty Research Institute and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, where she was a Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellow from 2013 to 2014.  

  • The Glamorous One-Two Punch: Alfonso Brown, 1920s Paris, and the Making of the Beautiful Black Male Athlete

    Lyneise Williams

    At this moment in the twenty-first century, we take images of beautiful, black male athletes for granted in the United States and globally. But this merger of ideas about beauty and black male athletic bodies is relatively new. The visual type of the desirable, black athlete first emerged in 1927 Paris. It burst forth in one of the most widely circulated popular sports weeklies, Match L’Intran (whose broad circulation extended into the French colonies in the Americas and Africa) in a cover image of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Teofilo Brown, Bantamweight World Champion from 1929-1936. In this presentation, I explore how sports journalism, cutting edge photomechanical reproduction technologies, cinematic photography, and new graphic design possibilities, among many social forces, converged to generate this striking, and enduring visual type.


    Lyneise Williams is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (PhD Yale 2004). She is the author of Latinizing Blackness in Paris, 1855-1933, (forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic Publishers), which examines how Parisians’ visual iconography of Latin Americans in popular imagery inextricably links blackness to Latin American identity beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Three case studies focusing on the imagery of Cuban circus entertainer, Chocolat, Panamanian World Bantamweight Champion boxer, Alfonso Teofilo Brown, and Black Uruguayans by Uruguayan painter, Pedro Figari, demonstrate the way this strategy was reconfigured in portrayals of phenotypically black Latin Americans, and argue for a nuanced reconsideration of blackness in early twentieth century Paris. Her second book project, explores the intersection of beauty, and the black male athlete in 1920s and 30s Paris. Currently, Williams is serving as a Getty Scholar Fellow at the Getty Research Institute. She has published articles on the paintings of Uruguayan artist Pedro Figari, the depictions of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Teofilo Brown, as well as on African art and hip-hop jewelry. Williams has curated exhibitions on African art, and she is a member of the team selected from an international competition to design the North Carolina Freedom Monument Project in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  • Art in the Expulsion of Christianity from Japan, 1614-15

    Timon Screech, Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts, SOAS, University of London

    The Jesuit and then Franciscan missions many large inroads into Japan from about 1550, but were severely curtailed in 1614, with all priests and friars expelled. There had been restrictions before, but the reason for this abrupt and total change of policy has ever been clearly explained. This talk will propose it was the arrival of the English that triggered the shift. England was the most anti-Catholic nation in Europe, and specifically anti-Jesuit, blaming them for a string of attacks on their polity (often without good reason, in the views of modern historians). The first English ship arrived in summer 1613. But its officers had trouble articulating their views, and so resorted to pictures, a great many of which were exported to Japan in subsequent voyages. All images are lost, but this talk will also seek to reconstruct them, and assess their meanings and appearances. 

  • Rethinking the Origins of Art-and-Culture: What Neuroscience Can Contribute

    John Onians, Professor Emeritus of World Art, University of East Anglia, UK

     Applying the principles of "neuroarthistory," the lecture addresses Paleolithic Art--much the most striking and complex trace left by our prehistoric ancestors. A hundred years ago, many scholars were happy to see art as having its origin in spontaneous behaviors. More recently, a consensus has developed that it is the product of an elaborate culture, whose self-consciousness is said to be demonstrated by its dependence on the use of language to formulate myths and cosmologies. The discoveries of recent neuroscience suggest, however, that this approach might be misdirected. Knowledge of the processes of neural formation at the level of the individual enables us to see the earliest painting, sculpture, and architecture as having been shaped by visceral concerns rooted in circumstances specific to particular places. The emergence of art at different places and times may be not so much the result of social exchange mediated by language as a contingent interaction between local circumstances and a common neural inheritance.

    The founder editor of Art History, John Onions is the author of several books, most recently, European Art: A Neuroarthistory (Yale). In September 2016, he gave the keynote address at the International Congress of the History of Art in Beijing.

  • The Utopian Horizons of a Post-imperial Future: Insurgent Collage in Interwar India

    Atreyee Gupta

    1937. In the backdrop of a world veering precariously close to the Second World War, the Indian artist Abanindranath Tagore began a manuscript, an artists’ book of sorts, based on the epic Ramayana. 207 collages, which combined photographs, cinema reviews, advertisements, and typography from contemporary newspapers, accompanied the artist’s handwritten text. While the text broadly followed the Indian epic, the collages invoked a transcontinental cast of characters including Japan’s Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, Hitler, and Stalin, and events such as Italy’s aggression on Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War. As the first collage by an Indian artist, the project opens up the history and historiography of twentieth-century art to several compelling questions, some of which will be taken up in this talk. As we will see, the collages belonged to a new register of modernist aesthetic thought and practice, one that reworked the illustrative presence of documentary photography to enunciate a utopian post-imperial global horizon. The promise of modernism, the talk contends, remained obdurately lodged within this utopian imagination of an egalitarian future, a future that lay beyond the limits of the interwar world order. In the collages, the aspiration for, and the expectation of, sovereignty thus assumed discursive and material form in an anti-realist aesthetic that closely approximated a utopian vision for a post-imperial political future. Anti-realist because, expectation withstanding, this post-imperial future was not yet actualized in any real dimension. Modernism, then, was the name of that which gave this global post-imperial future shape in a still colonized interwar present.

    Dr. Atreyee Gupta is Jane Emison Assistant Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her research interests include art, visual cultures, and intellectual histories of 20th-century South Asia; the intersections between the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement, and artistic practices; and Global Modernisms. She trained in art history at the University of Minnesota in the US and the M.S. University Baroda in India. Prior to joining MIA, she was based in Germany, first at Haus der Kunst, Munich and then at the Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Program of the Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. Alongside curatorial projects on contemporary Buddhist art of South and Southeast Asia and the art and history of the South Asian diaspora in the US, she is completing a monograph that focuses on abstraction in interwar and postwar painting, sculpture, photography, and experimental film in South Asia. Other ongoing projects include Converging Cultures, an exhibition on the impact of the Asian diaspora on Latin American art (co-curated for the Art Museum of the Americas); Postwar - Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 (co-edited with Okwui Enwezor); and Global Modernism/s: Infrastructures of Contiguities, ca. 1905–1965 (co-edited with Hannah Baader and Patrick Flores).

    A "research seminar" featuring work in progress will be presented the following day, to which faculty and graduate students are invited: 11:15 a.m., 308B Doe Library.

  • Before Pictures: Douglas Crimp in Conversation with Julia Bryan-Wilson

    Douglas Crimp

    From the University of Chicago Press website:

    "Before Pictures tells the story of Crimp’s life as a young gay man and art critic in New York City during the late 1960s through the turbulent 1970s. Crimp participated in all of what made the city so stimulating in that vibrant decade. The details of his professional and personal life are interwoven with this the particularly rich history of New York City at that time, producing a vivid portrait of both the critic and his adopted city. The book begins with his escape from his hometown in Idaho, and we quickly find Crimp writing criticism for ArtNews while working at the Guggenheim—where, as a young curatorial assistant, he was one of the few to see Daniel Buren’s Peinture-Sculpture before it was removed amid cries of institutional censorship. We also travel to the Chelsea Hotel (where Crimp helped the down-on-his-luck couturier Charles James organize his papers) through to his days as a cinephile and balletomane to the founding of the art journal October, where he remained a central figure for many years. As he was developing his reputation as a critic, he was also partaking of the New York night life, from drugs and late nights alongside the Warhol crowd at the Max’s Kansas City to discos, roller-skating, and casual sex with famous (and not-so-famous) men. As AIDS began to ravage the closely linked art and gay communities, Crimp eventually turned his attention to activism dedicated to rethinking AIDS.

    Part biography and part cultural history, Before Pictures is a courageous account of an exceptional period in both Crimp’s life and the life of New York City. At the same time, it offers a deeply personal and engaging point of entry into important issues in contemporary art. "

    Douglas Crimp is the Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History and Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester.

  • Funerary portrait relief of the Palmyrene priest, Mariôn (courtesy of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen [I.N. 1033], The Palmyra Portrait Project)

    The Classics Department Presents: Palmyrene Funerary Portraits, A Roman Period Portrait Habit

    Rubina Raja, Aarhus University School of Culture and Society

    Palmyrene funerary portraits make up the largest group of representations of individuals from antiquity arising out of a single urban context. The ancient city of Palmyra was rediscovered in 1751 by British travellers. Though many sculpted portraits still remain at the site, large numbers of Palmyrene funerary portraits have made their way into numerous art collections around the world. In 2012 a project was initiated at Aarhus University, Denmark, to document all known examples. Since then more than 3,000 have been recorded, which makes this the single largest surviving corpus of funerary portraits from anywhere in the Roman world.

    As a result of the escalating conflict in Syria, this project has since assumed particular importance: it is the sole source of documentation for a large number of extant portraits which were still in-situ before the civil war broke out. This lecture will address Palmyra’s archaeology and history, its unique funerary portrait tradition, and the cultural heritage catastrophe that the civil war in Syria has brought about.

    Rubina Raja is professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark. She studied in Copenhagen, Rome, and Oxford, before taking up a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany and subsequently one in Aarhus, Denmark. Since 2015 she has held the chair of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University and is the director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions. She initiated and is director of the Palmyra Portrait Project, financed by the Carlsberg Foundation. She also directs an international excavation project in the Decapolis city of Gerasa in modern Jordan. She has published extensively on urban development in the ancient world and religion in the Roman period as well as portraiture in the Roman world.

  • The Philosopher’s Room: Dressing Gowns and Shipwrecks in Diderot’s Regrets

    Katie Scott, Courtauld Institute of Art

    An interdisciplinary analysis of Diderot’s short story, or essay, "Regrets sur ma vieille robe de chambre" (1769), this lecture aims to understand why Diderot chose to develop his critique of luxury (if such it is) in the context of what purports to be a short piece of life-writing, circulated to an elite readership via the Correspondance littéraire. As an art historian I am interested in accounting for Diderot’s use of both spatial form and ekphrasis to describe the appearance, and justify the possession of, luxury objects, a marine painting by Claude-Joseph Vernet most especially. However, the lecture will also engage with the moral questions raised in the discourse on the causes and effects of luxury, and proposes Michel Foucault’s theory of practical ethics as the appropriate model for the interpretation of Diderot’s apparent ambivalence with regard to non-essential consumer spending. The figure of the philosophe is here analysed in the context of the mid-century debate about the political morality of ‘his’ assimilation into elite salon culture, and in contrast to the much reviled figure of the amateur. This lecture addresses the relation between public and private in the specific contexts of the open door of hospitality on the one hand, and, on the other, of the materiality, or persuasive pleasure of the literary text. 

  • Crossing the Bridge: Berkeley to SFMOMA

    Ruth Berson, Deputy Museum Director, Curatorial Affairs, SFMOMA

  • Grapes by Wen Riguan

    A Passion for Grapes—Thoughts on a Chinese Buddhist Painting

    Patricia Berger

    In this lecture UC Berkeley professor Patricia Berger considers Wen Riguan's early fourteenth-century Grapes, one of the most important early Chinese paintings in the BAMPFA collection (on view in Summer Trees Casting Shade). The artist was a well-known Buddhist abbot in the southern city of Hangzhou, equally renowned for a fluid use of the brush and an obsession with grapes. Berger will explore what Wen's focus on grapes tells us about his Buddhist practice and the reception of the painting as it made its way from China to Japan and ultimately to Berkeley.

    A Passion for Grapes (BAMPFA)