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ISAAC Year 1 Report 2018

Liu Yi and Gao Xin in the Crystal Bridges’ Rare Book Collection

Our ISAAC scholars had a very full spring and summer travel schedule in 2018. In February we spent a week in Washington, D.C. and visited the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the Phillips Collection. Each visit provided exceptional insight into the development and diversity of American art. At each institution we were welcomed by knowledgeable staff and engaged in meaningful dialogues. The nation’s capital provided a firm foundation in America’s history and its art.

In March we ventured to St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul, and were joined by Andrew Walker, Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in St. Louis. In addition to time at the St. Louis Art Museum and Kemper Art Museum we visited two private art collections with excellent examples of American Regionalism and its antecedents including artists Tomas Hart Benton, Hale Woodruff, Charles Burchfield, and Joe Jones. In Minnesota we drove along the Mississippi River, largely still frozen, to visit the delightful Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) in Winona, MN. MMAM is home to a large variety of European and American masterworks including examples from the Hudson River School, Impressionism, and American Realism and Modernism. We spent our final day at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), immersed in the impressive Kunin Collection, one of the foremost collections of American modern art in private hands.

Liu Yi at the Gilcrease Museum of Art with Senior Curator Laura Fry

In April EODIAH Visiting Assistant Professor and MA Program Chair Dr. Paul Galvez accompanied the scholars to Philadelphia and New York City. In Philadelphia the scholars visited the Barnes Collection, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A walking tour of old city Philadelphia gave particular attention to the architecture and urban planning. A visit to the University of Pennsylvania’s John Morgan Building revealed Thomas Eakins’ Agnew Clinic before heading to New York City. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art the scholars met with curator Sylvia Mount and discussed the changing paradigms for studying and exhibiting American art in the museum’s permanent collection, with particular focus on broadening the range of “American” art to include the Americas and cross-cultural exchanges. At the Whitney curator Barbara Haskell led the scholars through the Grant Wood exhibition explaining the selection of works, including their efforts to reconsider the category of “regionalism” that is often associated with Wood’s work. Their trip concluded with architecture-focused visits to the Frick Collection and the Guggenheim Museum.

An Ozarks trip in May began in Bentonville, Arkansas at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We met with Assistant Curator Jen Padgett and toured the galleries, with a focus on their 19th century landscapes and early Modernism paintings. A tour of the Bachman-Wilson House, an example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian architecture, posed a nice comparison to the Robie House in Chicago, an example of Wright’s Prairie School style. The day ended in the Rare Books collection, comprised of historic books and manuscripts dating back to the 16th century.

In Tulsa we focused on important collections of Western American Art with visits to the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum to view works by Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Moran’s stunning painting, Spectres from the North. We visited the Helmerich Center, its hallways lined with framed facsimiles of historic documents, including the Fort Reno Ledger Drawings (1879 and 1887) and a certified copy of the Declaration of Independence signed by Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane.

ISAAC Scholars and Amon Carter staff Brett Abbott and Maggie Adler at the Grand Teton National Park

A geyser at Yellowstone National Park

The scholars’ final trip was led by the Amon Carter’s Brett Abbot, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, and Maggie Adler, Curator, to Wyoming in June. It centered around visits to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and aimed at providing the scholars with first-hand experience of the raw power of America’s grand western landscape – a setting that has dramatically influenced, and in turn been deeply impacted by, the development of American painting and photography from the 19th century to the present.

Each trip was filled with exciting discoveries and lively intellectual discussions with scholars, curators, archivists, librarians, and collectors, among others. Speaking for myself and the Institute, it has been an immense pleasure to work with Gao Xin and Liu Yi and introduce them to collections, archives, and libraries throughout the United States and equip them with the knowledge and experience to teach American art history to their undergraduate students.

The Institute will welcome our second group of ISAAC fellows from Nanjing University in late August. Senior Scholar Dr. Hansong Dan, Associate Professor, School of Foreign Studies; Junior Scholar Ting Zhang, PhD Student, The Art Institute; and Dr. Weiyi Wu, Assistant Researcher, The Art Institute. Dr. Dan will be in residence for two months, and Ms. Zhang and Dr. Wu will be in residence for two academic semesters. Each of the scholars will present a workshop on their current research; you can check the Institute’s Programs page this fall for more information.