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  • Exhibition: The Papyrus in the Crocodile

    150 Years of Excavation, Exploration, Collection, and Stewardship at Berkeley

    May 6 – July 29, 2016
    Bancroft Library Gallery, University of California, Berkeley
    (The Gallery is open M-F, 10 am to 4 pm; closed weekends and administrative holidays)

    The collections assembled by Berkeley’s many patrons and collectors during the last 150 years form the foundation of research materials related to a variety of the university’s academic disciplines. The Papyrus in the Crocodile embodies Berkeley’s motto fiat lux (“let there be light”) by illuminating a selection of these invaluable objects as testaments to the cosmopolitan ideologies of Berkeley’s visionary patrons and donors—whose own lives were scarcely less fascinating than the archeological, ethnographic, and aesthetic materials they amassed. By gathering together artifacts from repositories across the university, this exhibition sheds light on the history of acquisitions and encounters that have contributed to the academic diversity celebrated on the Berkeley campus; and recognizes the remarkable men and women who enthusiastically answered the call of University President Benjamin Ide Wheeler to collect for the sake of research and the creation of new knowledge.

    The Papyrus in the Crocodile begins by highlighting Phoebe Apperson Hearst, one of the university’s greatest contributors, and the exceptional collections compiled under her patronage. In 1899, Hearst funded an expedition organized by Egyptologist George A. Reisner, who hired Oxford papyrologists Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. As they excavated an Egyptian necropolis in the sands of ancient Tebtunis, they uncovered over 31,000 papyrus fragments, including second-century BCE texts stuffed into mummified crocodiles. The artifacts from that excavation entered the university’s new Museum of Anthropology (since renamed the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology) and many of the papyrus texts went to The Bancroft Library, where they are now housed at the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri.

    For the young California university, founded in 1868, the turn-of-the-century expeditions to the far corners of the world returned with materials that propelled Berkeley forward as a beacon of research and learning on par with many of its more established East Coast and European counterparts.

    This exhibition showcases the diverse nature of Berkeley’s collections, which span multiple continents, represent diverse cultures, and encompass a wide range of materials and media. For example, Phoebe Hearst’s Chinese robes and costume accessories later served as pedagogical devices for young women at the YWCA and as reference materials for Berkeley’s Design Department. After the dissolution of the Design Department, the robes came to the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The photographs, ritual objects, and ephemera collected by Theos Bernard, “the White Lama,” straddle the divide between entertainment and ritual, the secular and the religious. He incorporated pan-Asian objects and philosophies into his work and everyday life, and was a key figure in the dissemination of Eastern esoteric practices in the West. History unfolds before the viewer in the case of the Codex Fernández Leal, a twenty-foot long sixteenth-century illustrated scroll that documents Mesoamerican history and culture. Earthenware pots and woven baskets demonstrate the diversity of indigenous cultures stretching from South America to the Californian coastline. Combined with photographs, maps, and paintings, these objects attest to ethnographic and commercial interactions between indigenous cultures and Western explorers, merchants, scholars, and settlers.

    Natural history prints and paintings show how artists and scientists turned their attention to the natural world, combining the arts of illustration with empirical observation. Arts and Crafts books and interior designs detail domestic manifestations of this age of exploration in aestheticized natural motifs. Garden designers harnessed the life cycle of plants from around the world, to shape, color, and ornament the private landscape of home and garden.

    The collections on display in the exhibition are not only beautiful, but they also continue to serve the research needs of students and scholars at Berkeley and around the world. The Center for the Tebtunis Papyri provides primary research materials for the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) Project. Hand-printed and hand-bound Arts and Crafts books, collected and donated by advertising executive Norman H. Strouse, are used in Berkeley classes taught at The Bancroft Library on the history of printing and the hand-printed book. The garden designs of Gertrude Jekyll, at the Environmental Design Archives, have made possible the restoration of Jekyll’s gardens in England. Berkeley’s stewardship of these collections has extended their lives beyond the moment of their creation and collection so that they continue to provide research opportunities across disciplines and departments, from Classics to anthropology, from art history to zoology, from religious studies to design. This unprecedented exhibition brings to light many objects never before seen by the public, and prompts both the public and new generations of scholars to engage with these remarkable collections in formulating and answering research questions.

    This exhibition is the capstone event of a three-year grant for Graduate Study in Curatorial Preparedness and Object-Based Learning from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Curated by students in the Mellon Exhibition Graduate Seminar, The Papyrus in the Crocodile represents the culmination of a year’s worth of research, selection, organization, and writing by students representing the fields of art history, anthropology, history, and religion. Co-taught by Professors Margaretta Lovell and Patricia Berger from the History of Art Department, the class began with whirlwind tours through Berkeley campus collections. Students gazed upon the painted faces of Egyptian coffins, delighted in the strains of Mozart pulled from a Baroque violin, marveled at the delicate well-provenanced creatures preserved in specimen jars, and pondered the possibilities of unrealized architectural plans. They met individually with curators from each repository to begin creating a list of objects for exhibition, and learned firsthand the meticulous process of compiling object lists—striking a balance between aspiration and feasibility—preparing loan agreements, writing labels, and designing compelling object groupings.

    The students of the Mellon Graduate Exhibition Seminar extend their gratitude to the directors and curators of the lending institutions, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible. Materials and consultations have been generously provided by the Bancroft Library, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, the Environmental Design Archives, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Special thanks go out to The Bancroft Library for the use of its gallery and the invaluable tutoring on industry standards for exhibition planning offered by its staff.

    The project website can be found here.
     

     

  • Lauren Kroiz Wins Essay Award

    Assistant Professor of Art History Lauren Kroiz received the 2015 Patricia and Phillip Frost Essay Award for her article “‘A Jolly Lark for Amateurs’: John Steuart Curry’s Pedagogy of Painting.” The article was published in the spring 2015 issue of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s peer-reviewed journal for new scholarship. The Frost Award recognizes excellent scholarship in the field of American art history by honoring an essay that advances the understanding of the history of the arts in America and demonstrates original research and fresh ideas.

    The Jurors who selected Kroiz’s article wrote that it “offers a refreshing, innovative approach to 1930s art, especially Regionalist art, and the complex cultural politics of Regionalism as a locus of anti-fascism, as well as an important site for dialogue between ‘serious’ art and the world of amateurs. In this, it suggests transversal connections with other domains of art and cultural history of the 20th-century, such as photography, cinema and art education, and proposes a promising lead for American art history more broadly.”

    See the Smithsonian’s full press release here.

  • 2016 Commencement Exercises

    History of Art's commencement will be held on Monday, May 16 at 9:00 a.m. in the Auditorium at BAMPFA. Students and their families may contact our Undergraduate Advisor for tickets. This year's commencement speaker is Rue Mapp, Founder of Outdoor Afro, and an alumna of this department (2009). 

  • Christopher Bollas: Mini-Course and Residency at the Townsend Center Fall 2016

    The seminar and residency will explore the work of the most influential psychoanalyst writing in English today, Christopher Bollas, who will be scholar-in-residence at the Townsend Center in the first week of November 2016. Bollas is widely known for his pioneering, polymathic, and maverick investigations of unconscious perception of objects and the object world, including human beings—work that has been highly suggestive for many domains of the humanities and social sciences—and more recently for his exploration of fractured unconsciousness (anxiety, hysteria, breakdown, and schizophrenia). Prior to Bollas’s visit, we will discuss his published works (including The Freudian Moment, The Shadow of the Object, Being a Character, and When the Sun Bursts: The Enigma of Schizophrenia) as well as forthcoming and in-progress work that he will provide. Students will present their own projects to the group, and will develop questions to be discussed in seminars with Bollas himself and for one-on-one meetings with him during his residency.

    Three seminar sessions will be convened by Professor Whitney Davis (History of Art) and will meet on three Wednesdays (September 21 and October 5 and 18) from 5:15 – 7 pm, at the Townsend Center. Participants must attend these seminars; the events of Bollas’s residency, which will take place in the afternoons/early evenings of October 31 and November 1, 2 and 3; and one-on-one meetings with Bollas.

    The seminar is open to graduate students in any program, for 1-unit credit. Students can register for the course by enrolling in Rhetoric 244A, History of Art 298, or Comparative Literature 298. Advance communication with and permission of the instructor required (wmdavis@berkeley.edu). You may also contact the Townsend Center at tansmana@berkeley.edu.
     

  • Kailani Polzak and William Ma named winners of Outstanding GSI Award for 2015-2016

    Help us in congratulating two of History of Art’s graduate students, Kailani Polzak and William Ma, recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award!


    The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (OGSI) Award honors over 200 UC Berkeley GSIs each year for their outstanding work in the teaching of undergraduates. These OGSI recipients are nominated from within their teaching department. The GSI Teaching & Resource Center gives the award recipients certificates of distinction and a celebratory Outstanding GSI Award Ceremony which will take place on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in the International House.

    More about the Awardees:

    Kailani Polzak (2008) is a Ph.D. candidate working on British, French, and Russian voyages to the Pacific and the picturing of human difference in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    William H. Ma (2008) is writing a dissertation on the art and craft workshops at the French Jesuit Orphanage Tushanwan in Shanghai in the early twentieth century. His main areas of interest include the artistic exchange between China and the West (Europe and America) during the late-imperial period, regionalism in Chinese art, and Chinese export art in Guangzhou (Canton).

  • Toward a Post-Culturalist Art History: Symposium on the Work of Whitney Davis at the Center for Humanities, Freie Universität, Dahlem, Berlin, April 27/28, 2016

    Symposium Description: Art-historical and visual-culture writing has often assumed that pictures produced in a given historical and geographical milieu track a visual culture, that is, established ways of seeing informed by a relatively stable configuration of shared meaning. Is this just an indispensable methodological abstraction, or is it possibly detrimental to our understanding of the temporally and/or geographically distant forms of pictorial experience? The symposium will tackle this question taking as its departing point the recent analytic work by Whitney Davis (in A General Theory of Visual Culture and the forthcoming Visuality and Virtuality: A Historical Phenomenology of Images and Pictures), who has been developing a model of “succession to visuality” as a historical process that is never totalized and is not well characterized in strong culturalist terms that assume a consolidated culture constituting one's visual experience. Professor Davis will present a public lecture in the evening of April 27 and in the morning of April 28 an overview of his position, followed by response papers by Prof. Gerhard Wolf (Florence), Prof. Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden), Dr. Hans-Christian Hönes (Warburg Institute, London), and Dr. Jakub Stejskal (Berlin). 

  • Whitney Davis gives 2016 Rumble Lecture in Classical Art

    Whitney Davis delivered the third annual Rumble Memorial Fund Lecture in Classical Art in the Great Hall at King's College London, under the title "Queering Classical Art." The event was sponsored by the Centre for Hellenic Studies and the Department of Classics at Kings. Professor Davis was introduced by Professor Roderick Beaton, the Director of CHS, and Dr Michael Squire, Lecturer in Classical Art at Kings, and the traditional speech of thanks was given by Professor Hugh Smith, Head of Classics at Kings. 

  • Patricia Berger Wins CAA Award for Distinguished Teaching of Art History

    The Department of History of Art at UC Berkeley is enormously pleased to announce that Patricia Berger (Professor of Chinese Art) has been awarded the 2016 College Art Association Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award. This award honors Professor Berger's many significant contributions to undergraduate and graduate mentoring. CAA will formally recognize its Awards for Distinction honorees at a special awards ceremony to be held during Convocation at the 104th Annual Conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday evening, February 3, 2016, 5:30–7:00 PM.  

  • International conference on art and ecology co-organized by Sugata Ray

    Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art​ ​is conceived as an intellectual laboratory to address the ecological and aesthetic dimensions of human interaction with geographical, geological, botanical, zoological, astronomical, and climatic formations from the micro to a planetary scale. How was the interrelationship between the nonhuman and the human visually configured in geographically distinct, yet often interconnected, terrains in different moments of history? How did striated knowledge-systems, the agentive qualities of matter, and aesthetic practices shape such configurations, topographies, and spatial orders? To what extent were particular aesthetic practices related to the economies of religious systems or social arrangements? What are the conceptual interconnections, or conversely interstices, between theories of nature, ecology, environment, and aesthetics? While literary ecocriticism has become a field of intense debate over the last decades, the ecological turn in visual culture studies is still at its early stage. The conference thus aims to bring art history, a discipline that has for long been concerned with notions of landscape, nature, materiality, and aesthetic processes, into this emerging conversation. The conference aims to act as a crucial interpolation in the conversation between ecological and aesthetic studies, envisaged here in a historical and transcultural perspective from the earliest known human interaction with the natural environment to the present day.

    S​peakers: Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago); Adam Herring (Southern Methodist University); Timothy Ingold (University of Aberdeen); Lihong Liu (National Gallery of Art, Washington); Venugopal Maddipati (Ambedkar University); Michael Marder (The University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz); Sandy Prita Meier (University of Illinois); Spyros Papapetros (Princeton University); Felix Pirson (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbul); Margarete Pratschke (ETH Zürich); Peter Schneemann (Universität Bern); Mimi Yiengpruksawan (Yale University)

     

    Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art
    Organized by Hannah Baader, Sugata Ray, and Gerhard Wolf​
    Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut, December 14-15, 2015
    Conference website