GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College Assistant Professor of History Sheila Nowinski, Ph.D., was one of a select group of faculty members nationwide chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges to participate in a special week-long seminar on Teaching European Art in Context. She recently presented on her experience at the conference at a campus-wide faculty and staff development session.
The seminar, “Landscape and Identity in Britain and the United States (1770–1914),” was held at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn., this summer. The seminar is designed for full-time faculty members who regularly teach art history at smaller colleges and universities and aims to strengthen the teaching of art history to undergraduates at these institutions. CIC selected 25 faculty members to participate in the seminar, which is supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University and chair of the department, led the program.
“Strengthening the teaching of art history at colleges and universities—many of which have limited faculty resources in art history—is critical,” Council of Independent Colleges President Richard Ekman said. “The seminar [has] significant value for the faculty members who participate, the colleagues with whom they will share their new knowledge, and the students who enroll in their courses.”
Landscape became a powerful artistic medium during the “long 19th century” and reached a pinnacle of achievement on the canvases of painters such as Thomas Gainsborough, J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Thomas Cole, and Frederic Church. The program explored British and American landscape painting in a global context. Participants will study a range of texts—by artists, writers, philosophers, and scientists from the period—to examine the cultural, historical, and aesthetic construction of landscape paintings in the 19th century. Each day, participants will spend significant time with major works of art in the unrivaled collections of landscape paintings, drawings, and prints at the Yale Center for British Art.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to study these beautiful works alongside preeminent scholars and experienced faculty members. The highlight for me was the time spent in the prints and drawings study room and in the galleries of the Yale Center for British Art. Even the highest quality digital image will miss small details and texture.” Nowinski said. “The YCBA very generously opened up its study room to us. I spent an afternoon with a 1786 illustrated journal documenting a young woman’s trip through the picturesque landscape of Wales. The journal shows how new forms of tourism prompted new ways of seeing and depicting the landscape. Art can help us connect seemingly disparate historical trends and gain a more subtle understanding of an era. British landscape painting reflected processes of industrialization, imperialism, and nation-building, all important themes in European history. I am looking forward to incorporating landscape art into my courses on nineteenth-century Europe and imperialism.”
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