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Colleen Terry receives 2015 Wilbur Owen Sypherd Dissertation Prize

Colleen Terry was presented the Sypherd Dissertation Prize during UD's doctoral hooding ceremony held May 29 on The Green.

Colleen Terry, a recent doctoral graduate of the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of the 2015 Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in the Humanities. 

The University award was presented during the doctoral hooding ceremony held May 29 on The Green. 

Terry, who received her doctorate in art history, serves as assistant curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The recipient of a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from Yale University, Terry also holds a master’s degree in the history of design from the Royal College of Art in London, England. 

Terry’s award-winning dissertation, “Presence in Print: William Hogarth in British North America,” explores the impact of the famed British artist on the public imagination of British North America during the Colonial and Early Republic eras. 

Hogarth is best known for his series paintings of modern moral subjects, including “The Rake’s Progress,” a series of eight paintings produced in 1732-33 and currently in the collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. 

“Famed British artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) was literally and rhetorically present in print in British North America for much of the 18th century, without his ever setting foot on its shores,” Terry said. “While this fact was well known before I undertook my research, I used 18th century newspaper articles and advertisements, as well as probate inventories, diaries and letters to discover the significance of this artistic presence.” 

Terry’s thesis includes chapters devoted to the marketing, consumption and narration of Hogarth’s prints in British America, from his 1739 appearance in the popular press to the Early Republic period, revealing the degree to which the artist’s prints and aesthetic treatise took hold of the British-American imagination. 

The works conditioned a public to art laced with contemporary social concerns as well as humor, Terry said. 

“My dissertation offers an expanded explanation of the market for art in British North America during the 18th century,” Terry said. “Since my study addressed a period marked by significant ideological conflict and revolution, yet identifies the persistent presence of the quintessentially British artist within the visual, material and intellectual fabric of the day, the dissertation also reevaluates the consumer behavior of the period.” 

Terry noted that her background in British decorative arts and UD’s distinguished record of training historians of American art made the University an ideal place to pursue her doctoral degree. 

“When I chose UD, I had already determined that I wanted to be a museum curator,” Terry said. “The University has a very strong track record on training curators in all fields thanks in large part to the emphasis that many of the art history professors place on object-based research.” 

Doctoral thesis adviser Bernard L. Herman, former Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Professor of Art History, said he was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as Terry’s doctoral adviser. 

“Colleen researched and wrote a masterful dissertation, and winning the Sypherd Prize speaks to the broader contribution and value of her work in the humanities,” Herman said. “She earned that recognition through a highly competitive process and I am absolutely delighted for her.”

Herman, chair and George B. Tindall Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said Terry’s work represents the best of UD’s long and distinguished accomplishments in the histories of art and culture. 

“Presence in Print: William Hogarth in British North America” also is the first scholarly exploration of the reception and circulation of the British artist’s work in the American colonies and early republic, Herman said. 

“Given Hogarth’s Atlantic world influence, his preeminent place in the canon of British art and the fact that his engravings existed in multiples, his impact on emergent American cultures of sociability and discernment was significant and far reaching,” Herman said. “Terry is the first writer to chart and document that impact and what it meant in the context of 18th century Atlantic world cultures.” 

Terry described Herman as a wonderful mentor who gave her the space needed to work through her own ideas and helped with those questions lurking just beneath the surface.

She also thanked thesis second reader Wendy Bellion, associate professor of art history, for numerous invaluable suggestions, as well as H. Perry Chapman, interim chair and professor of art history, and Matthew Kinservik, vice provost for faculty affairs, for giving generously of their time while serving as members of her dissertation committee.

“Bernie’s advice to start with the thing you understand the least continues to drive my scholarship,” Terry said. “It is certainly an honor to receive the award and it gives me renewed enthusiasm to return to the project with an eye towards publishing.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Colleen Terry, a recent doctoral graduate in art history, has received the 2015 Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in the Humanities.  

Colleen Terry, a recent doctoral graduate in art history, has received the 2015 Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in the Humanities for her dissertation about the impact of 18th century British artist William Hogarth.

6/26/2015
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