Professor c, Terra Foundation Visiting Professor in American Art, gives the second lecture in the The Terra Lectures in American Art: Performing Innocence: US Artists in Paris, 1865-1914 series.
Moderator: Wanda M.Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University
Between the end of the US Civil War and the start of World War I, thousands of American artists studied and worked in Paris. While popular thought holds that they went to imbibe culture and attain artistic maturity, in this four-part lecture series, Professor Emily Burns explores the various ways that Americans in Paris performed instead a cultural immaturity that pandered to European expectations that the United States lacked history, tradition, and culture. The lectures chart knowing constructions of innocence that US artists and writers projected abroad in both art practice and social performance, linking them to ongoing conversations about race, gender, art making, modernity, physio-psychological experience, evolutionary theory, and national identity in France and in the United States. Interwoven myths in art and social practice that framed Puritanism; an ironically long-standing penchant for anything new and original; primitivism designed by white artists’ playing with ideas of Blackness and Indigeneity; childhood’s incisive perception; and originary sight operated in tandem to turn a liability of lacking culture into an asset. In analyzing the mechanisms of these constructions, the lectures return to the question about the cultural work these ideas enacted when performed abroad. What is obscured and repressed by mythical innocence and feigned forgetting?
Performing Innocence: Puritan
Visual culture representing Americans in Paris often polarized stereotypes of French and US identities, framing French bohemia as distinct from steadfast US work ethic. This lecture analyzes how Americans and US institutions in Paris adopted the ideal of the Puritan as a symbol of their sustained connection with the United States and a protective armor from becoming absorbed into Parisian decadence. US churches in Paris—all Protestant—participated in this construction alongside offering critiques of Catholicism in the context of debates about laicization in France. Professor Burns analyzes paintings, sculpture, and illustrations by Julius LeBlanc Stewart, Cecilia Beaux, Augustus St. Gaudens, and Jean André Castaigne, and studies St. Luke’s Chapel, which was built for the US students in Paris, to argue that this discourse inflected US artists’ representations of their studio spaces; the rhetoric of US artists’ clubs in Paris; and limited professional possibilities for US women artists.
Emily C. Burns is an Associate Professor of Art History at Auburn University where she teaches courses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American, Native American, and European art history. Her publications include a book, Transnational Frontiers: the American West in France (University of Oklahoma Press, 2018), which analyzes appropriations of the American West in France in performance and visual and material culture in the tripartite international relationships between the United States, France, and the Lakota nation between 1867 and 1914, as well as journal articles, exhibition catalogue essays, and book chapters related to art and circulation, US artists in France, and American impressionism. She is currently completing a co-edited volume with Alice Price on global impressionisms entitled Mapping Impressionist Painting in Transnational Contexts (forthcoming from Routledge).
During her tenure as the Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor in the Department of History of Art at the University of Oxford and a Visiting Fellow at Worcester College, Professor Burns will complete her second book, Performing Innocence: Cultural Belatedness and U.S. Art in fin-de-siècle Paris.
Wanda M.Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University
Having earned a BA (l963), MA (l965) and Ph.D. (l974) from New York University, Professor Wanda Corn taught at Washington Square College, the University of California, Berkeley, and Mills College before moving to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in 1980. At Stanford she held the university's first permanent appointment in the history of American art and served as chair of the Department of Art and Art History and Acting Director of the Stanford Museum. From l992 to 1995 she was the Anthony P. Meier Family Professor and Director of the Stanford Humanities Center. In 2000, she became the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History. She retired from teaching at Stanford in 2008. In 2009, she was the John Rewald Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at the CUNY Graduate Center.
A scholar of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art and photography, Professor Corn has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Smithsonian Regents, the Stanford Humanities Center, the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, and the Clark Institute of Art. In 2003 she was the Clark Distinguished Visiting Professor at Williams College and in 2006-07, the Samuel H. Kress Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. In 2012, she was awarded a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship to support her pioneering research on Georgia O’Keeffe’s clothes. She has won numerous teaching awards: in 2007 The Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award from the College Art Association; in 2002 the Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Teaching Award; and in 1974 the Graves Award for outstanding teaching in the humanities. In 2006, the Archives of American Art awarded her The Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History and in 2007 she received the Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts. In 2014, the College Art Association dedicated a Distinguished Scholar Session to her work. She has served two terms on the Board of Directors of the College Art Association and two on the Commission for the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She served on the Advisory Board of the Georgia O’Keeffe Catalogue Raisonné and two terms on the Board of the Terra Foundation in American Art. Today she is a trustee of the Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Foundation for American Art; and a board member of the Grant Wood Art Colony at the University of Iowa. Since 2000, she has chaired the Advisory Committee for Historic Artist Homes and Studios (HAHS) that is an affiliate of the National Trust.
Active as a guest curator, she had produced various books and exhibitions, including The Color of Mood: American Tonalism 1990-1910 (1972); The Art of Andrew Wyeth (l973); Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision (1983); Seeing Gertrude Stein, Five Stories (2011-12); and in 2017-19, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern. Her O’Keeffe study, published by Prestel Press, won Honorable Mention for the College Art Association’s Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award and was awarded the 1918 Dedalus Foundation Exhibition Catalogue Award. Her historiographic article for Art Bulletin, "Coming of Age: Historical Scholarship in American Art" (June l988), became a significant point of reference in the field as has her work on cultural nationalism in early American modernism. Her study of avant-garde modernist culture along the Atlantic rim, The Great American Thing: Modern Art and American Identity, 1915-35, was published by the University of California Press in 1999 and won the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art. In 2011, UC Press published Professor Corn’s Women Building History about Mary Cassatt and the decorative program of murals and sculptures for the Woman’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. She continues to research, write, and lecture on high, middle, and low culture interpretations of Grant Wood’s American Gothic.