About

Whistler: Nature and Nation is a two-day event hosted by the Colby College Museum of Art on October 14–15, 2015. Both events are free and open to the public. Please contact Justin McCann at jbmccann@colby.edu for more information.

The Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies: Museum Education and Impact in the 21st Century
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Colby College Museum of Art
5:30–7:00 pm

Join us for a conversation featuring Martha Tedeschi, Deptuy Director for Art and Research, Art Institute of Chicago, on the transformative role of art museums as centers for teaching, learning, and mentorship. Drawing on the work of the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies and other models, discussion will focus on how collection engagement can further the educational mission of museums and provide students with professional experiences and opportunities. Panelists include Tanya Sheehan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art, Colby College; Francesca Soriano, Colby College ’16; Justin McCann Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies Fellow. Moderated by Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator, Colby College Museum of Art.


Whistler: Nature and Nation


A Symposium Presented by the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies on James McNeill Whistler and His International Contexts

Thursday, October 15, 2015
Colby College Museum of Art
9 am–5 pm

Between 1865-1914 a significant reorganization of the American art world occurred as the relationships between art, nature, and nation were reconfigured. Whistler: Nature and Nation is a symposium dedicated to the exploration of how American artists working abroad and/or exposed to a international milieu in the United States imagined ideas of nature and nation in light of their global experiences. The symposium will use James McNeill Whistler, a cosmopolitan artist of ambiguous nationality who posited revolutionary ideas about art and nature, as the primary protagonist to stimulate such an examination.

Whistler lived life like boundaries and borders did not apply to him. He epitomized the ways American artists rethought their place during the second half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the most radical and theoretically ambitious of all American artists of the period, he sought to free artists and their art from national classifications, and he disavowed traditional conventions of representing nature.

Throughout his career, Whistler developed his “science of the beautiful” which shaped how he saw and pictured the world around him. He cultivated a style in painting and in printmaking that transformed and remade nature according to his standards and for the taste of those who shared his ambition for beauty. By the 1890s Whistler had succeeded in his endeavors as there was talk of a “Whistlerian” way of envisioning the world — he had become a movement of his own design and other artists were following his lead.

But this movement did not function in isolation from nineteenth century society. His work and attitude were a part of broader cultural trends that envisioned nature and nation in new ways unique to the circumstances of the period. This redefinition was framed, in part, by America’s increased presence in global affairs, the proliferation of international art markets and the emergence of a new class of collectors, a fascination with non-Western cultures, artifacts, and images, shifts in taste and the pursuit of visual sophistication, an appreciation of design and the decorative arts, the explosive growth of cities, the rise of mass communication, media, and other networks of exchange, increased transatlantic travel, and new conceptions of nature emerging from the physical and social sciences. We seek to place American artists like Whistler in these contexts to examine how they worked to reimagine nature and nation at a pivotal time in history.

The symposium is generously supported by a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art

The Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for national and international audiences. Recognizing the importance of experiencing original works of art, the foundation provides opportunities for interaction and study, beginning with the presentation and growth of its own art collection in Chicago. To further cross-cultural dialogue on American art, the foundation supports and collaborates on innovative exhibitions, research, and educational programs. Implicit in such activities is the belief that art has the potential both to distinguish cultures and to unite them.

Co-sponsored by the Colby College Center for Arts and Humanities and Colby’s Art Department.

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