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This detail of a design on a high chest of drawers
demonstrates the Asian aesthetic influences on American art. The chest
of drawers was manufactured by John Pimm in Boston around 1740-1750 and
is part of a bequest of Henry Francis du Pont to the Winterthur Museum
not only the United States that might be described as a melting pot,
according to the University of Delawares J. Ritchie Garrison. He says
the same is true for art.
Just as we are a nation of
immigrants, our culture has absorbed and reinterpreted aesthetics from
many different sources around the world, said Garrison, professor of
history and director of UDs Winterthur Program in American Material
That can certainly be seen in the influences of Asian art on
American art and American material culture.
This month, renowned scholars and museum curators from around the
world will gather in Delaware for a four-day symposium and graduate
student workshop to explore Asias global influence on art. The
symposium is part of the project In Search of Asian Aesthetics on
American Art and Material Culture, which is co-hosted by the Winterthur Program and the Department of Art History.
The pivotal question of this project is: How do design ideas,
patterns and aesthetics travel across the globe, even when objects
themselves do not? said Vimalin Rujivacharakul, associate professor of
art history at UD.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Rujivacharakul, who with Garrison organized the symposium and directs
the project, said art has always reflected the flow of ideas across
nations and cultures. Asian aesthetics have sometimes made their
influence felt directly on American art, while at other times the
influences may have traveled to Europe or Africa first and then moved on
to North or South America.
American art [a specialty of UDs
art history program] includes all these influences from elsewhere,
Rujivacharakul said. The idea of merging 9,000 years of Asian art with
300 years of American art is remarkable.
The symposium itself will feature a full day of presentations on
Saturday, Oct. 13, in what Rujivacharakul described as a unique format.
She invited experts to present original papers on various aspects of
the influence of Asian aesthetics on American art. The catch: Each
scholar or curator would have to work with another in most cases,
someone with whom they had never before collaborated or even met to
write and present a joint paper at the symposium.
We asked them not to just give a talk, Rujivacharakul said. We
asked them to work together. We are trying to create an
interdisciplinary community and to have people work outside their
J. Ritchie Garrison
Art historians, she said, tend to focus their scholarship on strictly
defined geographic areas. But just as art is influenced by other
cultures, scholarship also could be.
I hope that this symposium might be a small step in changing how art history is studied, she said.
The papers will be presented in eight sessions, each with a pair of
collaborators joined by a moderator. Those 24 participants are from all
over the world and will represent an unprecedented type of gathering,
Its unusual to get such prominent scholars together, especially
because theyre not in the same field, she said. I dont know if this
will happen again.
Garrison described the symposiums participants as amazing scholars
and educators who will tell the complex story of how [design] happens
and why things look the way they do.
The four-day event, held on UD's Newark campus and at Winterthur
Museum near Wilmington, will also offer an exceptional opportunity for
graduate students to hear from and interact with notable scholars.
A graduate student workshop on
Thursday, Oct. 11, open to invited participants only, will feature
presentations from 10 students from universities across the United
States and in Europe. On Friday, Oct. 12, a graduate student symposium
at Winterthur will be open to the public.
This printed linen textile, from a bequest of Henry Francis du
Pont to the Winterthur Museum collection, was made in England at the
Bromley Hall Print Works around 1760-1780 and shows the influence of
A committee of seven art history graduate students from UD organized
the workshop and symposium for graduate students, including the call for
and selection of papers. Planning such a complex event is an important
learning experience in itself, Rujivacharakul and Garrison said.
This kind of opportunity, complete with an international cast of
experts, is an example of the kind of wonderful training and mentoring
we provide our graduate students, said Garrison.
Art history doctoral student Anne Cross, a member of the committee, agreed.
This initiative has provided the graduate students with valuable
experience in putting together an academic symposium from coordinating
a call for papers, to managing a budget, to organizing catering and
transportation, she said. The skills that we gained in participating
in the symposium will no doubt prove invaluable for our future
The workshop and symposium will be held at UD and Winterthur from Thursday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 14.
Except for the graduate student workshop on the first day, all events
are free and open to the public. No separate admission fee will be
charged at Winterthur for access to events there.
For more information, including a list of presenters and the schedule of events, visit this website.
Those planning to attend are asked to register here.
The project and the symposium are funded by The Terra Foundation for
American Art, the Office of Graduate and Professional Education and the
Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware, and
the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support has been
provided by UDs Department of Art Conservation and the Islamic Studies
and Asian Studies programs.
Article by Ann Manser; photos courtesy of Winterthur Museum and by University of Delaware