• Caught between the Folds: An Intertextual and Intervisual Engagement with Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Religious Paintings

      West, Ashley D.; Hall, Marcia B. (Temple University. Libraries, 2010)
      The following thesis examines Pieter Bruegel the Elder's religious paintings and audience engagement, as based not solely on the content of the works, but on their formal structure, as well. Vignettes and smaller figure groups within Bruegel's compositions provide the basic structure and platform for an intertextual and intervisual engagement. The religious, social, and political context of the mid-sixteenth century is also considered to help frame the connection between the viewer and the following paintings: Procession to Calvary (1564, Vienna), Sermon of St. John the Baptist (1566, Budapest) and Conversion of St. Paul (1567, Vienna).
    • Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Musicians and the Engagement of the Viewer

      West, Ashley D.; Dolan, Therese, 1946- (Temple University. Libraries, 2017)
      Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629), a Dutch Baroque painter, is known as one of the more prominent artists among the Utrecht Caravaggisti, so-named for the city in which he worked and as a follower of Caravaggio. The Caravaggesque style swept through Northern Europe during the cusp of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and genre scenes of half-length figures could be found in every art fair and open market. The label of Utrecht Caravaggisti, however, is a limiting descriptor for ter Brugghen, who created works in response to the changing art market and tastes of a growing Dutch middle class, not motivated solely out of admiration for the Italian painter and his style. Hendrick ter Brugghen’s works featuring musicians at play are prime examples of how an artist in the competitive art market of the northern Netherlands engaged the viewer in a multitude of ways. With the rise of the middle-class merchants, professionals, and city officials, as well as the establishment of music and art academies, the subject of lower class musicians likely would have appealed to a range of buyers. Ter Brugghen’s use of half-length figures find their roots in earlier Dutch and Flemish artists, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Quentin Massys, who preceded Caravaggio in this type of composition by nearly a century, and certainly would have appealed to the market of a newly formed Dutch Republic seeking its own artistic lineage. Ter Brugghen employed allegorical themes and invoked a modern and vernacular variant of the pastoral mode in his string musicians, which would have been instantly recognizable to the learned buyer. In addition to engaging the viewer on a contemplative level, I shall argue that ter Brugghen’s musical compositions also enticed the viewer by activating his innate ideasthetic responses through visual cues and multisensory stimulation. By examining ter Brugghen’s musician paintings within the context and history of Dutch art production, we can more fully understand how his works engage the viewer so effectively and how they extend well beyond a dialogue with Caravaggio to assert his own inventiveness and modernity.
    • Postmortem Relationships: Death and the Child in Antebellum American Visual Culture

      Braddock, Alan C., 1961-; Gold, Susanna; Orvell, Miles; Klepp, Susan E. (Temple University. Libraries, 2013)
      Since Roland Barthes published Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography in 1982, the prevailing theory about photography has revolved around its primary role as a manifestation of transience, death, and mortality. Whether one promotes the philosophy that the photographic image steals away the soul and promotes death, or that it simply captures images of those that have died or will die, the photograph has been commonly interpreted as a visual reminder of the finality of human life. At no time does such an interpretation appear to be more tangibly true than during the mid-nineteenth century when the photograph was commonly used to preserve the actual visage of death in post- mortem portraiture. Here, death is not suggested or implied, but is vividly present. However, the theoretical emphasis that Barthes placed on death has limited our understanding of such images by eliding other meanings historically associated with them. As an addendum to Barthes, I propose that post-mortem images - particularly those of children - represent a more complex relationship between life and death as it pertained to nineteenth-century American culture. Moreover, I believe that it is important to consider post-mortem photography in tandem with painted mourning portraiture, and to contemplate both within a larger visual and cultural context in order to gain a more holistic understanding of these images in antebellum America. My dissertation will re-situate post-mortem representations of children within the material and religious culture of antebellum America, amid evolving historical beliefs about the life of children, the concept of childhood, and ideas about child-rearing, not just postmodern theoretical notions of death. My particular focus on children responds to the poignancy of childhood death in antebellum America and the way in which these images particularly embody the belief in continued existence through the afterlife. By placing such images within the wider context of nineteenth-century culture, I will demonstrate that life existed in death for antebellum Americans through the physical or material presence of the photograph along with Christian spiritual associations regarding the soul and the afterlife. In other words, belief in an ongoing relationship between material and immaterial "bodies" was exteriorized in the painted or photographic representation of the physical corpse, enabling antebellum Americans to interpret the image as both the icon and physical residue of the soul. I will demonstrate that the materiality of the post- mortem image allowed antebellum Americans to preserve that sense of life within death. While the material presence of the image acted as a reflection of "being," spiritual beliefs in a heavenly afterlife permitted nineteenth-century viewers to meditate on the perpetuation, rather than the impermanence, of existence. While this complex historical dimension of post-mortem imagery - a dimension largely ignored by Barthes - provides the central focus of my dissertation, I will also analyze how these images were produced, commissioned, displayed, viewed, touched, cherished, and otherwise utilized in antebellum American culture.

      Silk, Gerald; Gold, Susanna; Morrison, Keith, 1942-; Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois, 1968- (Temple University. Libraries, 2013)
      This dissertation investigates aesthetics of African design and decoration in the work of major contemporary artists of African descent who address heritage, history, and life experience. My project focuses on the work of three representative contemporary artists, African American artists Kehinde Wiley and Nick Cave, and Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. Their work represents practices and tendencies among a much broader group of painters and sculptors who employ elaborate textures and designs to express drama and emotion throughout the Black Atlantic world. I argue that extensive patterning, embellishment, and ornamentation are employed by many contemporary artists of African descent as a strategy for reinterpreting the art historical canon and addressing critical social issues, such as war, devastation of the earth's environment, and lack of essential resources for survival in many parts of the world. Many artworks also present historical revisions that reflect the experience of Black peoples who were brought to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade, lived under colonial rule, or witnessed aspects of post-colonial struggle. The disorderliness of intersecting designs could also symbolize gaps in memory and traumas that will not heal. They reflect the manner in which Black Atlantic peoples have pieced together ancestral histories from a patchwork of sources. Polyrhythmic decoration enables their work to act as vessels of experience, allowing viewers to bring together multiple histories and social references.
    • The Paintings of Jeff Koons: 1994 - 2008

      Silk, Gerald; Gold, Susanna (Temple University. Libraries, 2010)
      The Paintings of Jeff Koons: 1994 - 2008" is an in depth look at the painting of an artist who is still primarily known for his sculptural work of the 1980's. This thesis examines Koons' paintings in light of his previous work and looks at his studio practices, sources, connection to Photorealism, Surrealism, and Duchamp, etc. The thesis contends that a greater understanding and appreciation for Koons' paintings is necessary in order to grasp the importance of his entire oeuvre.