Vanderbilt University History of Art Blog

Elizabeth Moodey Presents Paper at Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Book_of_Heures-Color_Control-2_FULLNashville, home to the United Methodist Publishing House, Thomas Nelson, the Southern Baptists’ Lifeway Christian Stores, and Gideons International (of the ubiquitous Gideon Bibles), is a world center of religious publishing, primarily for mainline Protestants and evangelical Christians. The printing and distribution of the Bible being a major industry, it is not surprising that the city has been called both the Buckle of the Bible Belt and the Protestant Vatican.

Elizabeth Moodey, associate professor of history of art, presented a paper in late June at Saint Louis University’s annual symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Her paperThe Buckle of the Bible Belt: Artifacts of Southern Culture and the History of the Bible at Vanderbilt—was delivered in the session entitled “Deep into the Archives: Manuscripts in Lesser-Known American Collections.”

In her talk Moodey considered donations to the library of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University by Nettie Hale Rand and Samuel Fleming, both graduates of Vanderbilt.  Rand’s collection of more than 300 fine examples of printing and binding also included a manuscript book of hours dated 1480, made for an owner in Reims (named Ponset) who is pictured in prayer before Saint Barbara.  Fleming gave the university a large number of 13th-century French manuscript Bible leaves of the type so essential for theology students in Paris, and left funds for the library’s Southern Civilization Collection.

Since the mid-2000s, Fleming’s gift has supported the acquisition of handmade books by contemporary Southern artists. A recent exhibition brought together these two strains of the library’s developing collection, juxtaposing medieval and contemporary artifacts according to their subjects—travel, medicine, music, and of course, the Bible.  “The groupings suggest that contemporary book artists may share some of the concerns and techniques of their medieval predecessors,” said Moodey, “but that the active choice of making a book by hand has led the craft into a more personal, even idiosyncratic approach.”

She also noted that the Book of Hours in Vanderbilt’s Special Collections was the subject of an outstanding honors thesis by Christine Williams in 2012. The manuscript is known as the Ponset Hours, so named for the identified owner pictured in the final illumination, the Saint Barbara illumination.

*Prayer to Saint Barbara, BX 2080 c.37 1480 fol. 113.(courtesy of Vanderbilt’s Special Collections)

Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Conferences, HART, Lectures, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

CNN: “Remembering America’s Lost Buildings” by Kevin Murphy and Other Architectural Historians

rachelraymondhouseCNN recently picked up an earlier story, “Remembering America’s Lost Buildings” (August 31, 2017), from The Conversation in which Kevin Murphy, professor and chair of the history of art, participated. Murphy was among five architectural historians and professors who responded to the question: “What’s one American structure you wish had been saved?”

While their responses vary – from an unassuming home nestled in the suburbs of Boston to a monument of 19th-century wealth and glamour – none of the structures could resist the tides of decay, development and discrimination. . . . Read more in The Conversation, including Murphy’s article, “Traditional New England goes modern,” on the Rachel Raymond House, Belmont, Massachusetts, designed in 1931 by architect Eleanor Raymond for her sister Rachel and demolished in 2006.

*Photograph of the Rachel Raymond House courtesy of Historic New England

Posted by on August 10, 2018 in HART, News, VRC

Fine Arts Gallery Features “Joyce Tenneson–Botanical Beauty” Through August 18

TennesonJoyce Tenneson–Botanical Beauty presents work drawn from two portfolios by the artist, both of which feature atmospheric, poetic photographs of flowers in high contrast with a black background. On view through August 18 in the Fine Arts Gallery in Cohen Memorial Hall on the Peabody campus, these are, in effect, portraits of flowers, whether seen as individual buds or in relation to others of the same species, whether in their vibrant peak or fading days.

The first series, Flower Portraits, presents sepia-toned images of flowers in decay. Tenneson has adeptly captured movement, wonder, and vibrancy in them, as well as a sublime beauty. Intimacy, the second portfolio, features a wide variety of flowers, photographed in color in a sensuous, almost ethereal, manner. These two series together encourage viewers to study the unique shapes, textures, and marks of individual flowers and, in so doing, to celebrate biodiversity and the life cycle of plants.

Joyce Tenneson is a Maine-based photographer whose work has been exhibited, published, and recognized internationally. She was a recipient of the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award in 1989. These selections are recent gifts to the Fine Arts Gallery’s growing collection of photography, generously donated by Melissa and Scott Tannen, both BA’99, and Ronald Francesco.

The exhibit was organized by Vanderbilt’s Fine Arts Gallery and curated by Joseph Mella, director, and Margaret Walker, assistant curator. Summer gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 12-4pm; and Saturday, 1-5pm. Parking is available, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95 on the Peabody campus, accessible from 21st Avenue South.

*Joyce Tenneson (American, b. 1945). Dogwood, 2004, printed 2015. Archival pigment print, 22 x 17 inches.

Posted by on July 31, 2018 in Events, Fine Arts Gallery, HART, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Space 204 Features “Fish Hotel” Exhibit With Closing Reception on August 30

FishHotel2Fish Hotel is a two-person exhibition of recent video, photographic, and sculptural work by artists Douglas Degges and Sarah Phyllis Smith on view in Space 204 through August 30 at the Ingram Studio Arts Center. Both artists explore the space between idea and feeling, where creative processes move between being verbal and non-verbal.

This space is the ground upon which invention, storytelling, and identity building take place. Here, image-making is approached as a physical thinking process and objects become vehicles for memory and containers of place.

For this exhibition, the artists are working with materials and processes not typically found in their studio practices. For Smith, whose photographs remain rooted in autobiographical narratives, this work is a move toward abstraction. Images, objects, and sounds are broken down into their simplest forms.

Douglas’s work, which typically engages painting and abstraction, embraces representational imagery and storytelling. Looking to the landscape of Northern Louisiana for subject matter and inspiration, Douglas welcomes play, material exploration, and the use of found objects into his studio practice for the first time.

On view in Space 204 throughout the summer, the exhibit will close on Thursday, August 30, with a gallery reception for the artists from 4 to 6 pm. Summer hours for the gallery are Monday-Thursday, 10 am-4 pm. Space 204 is on the second floor of the Ingram Studio Arts Center on Vanderbilt’s main campus.

Douglas currently teaches at North Central College in Naperville, IL and has upcoming exhibitions at Night Light Gallery in Chicago, IL and VERSA in Chattanooga, TN. Smith, a photographer currently based in Chicago, teaches at Chicago State FishHotel1University. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Where the Great Lakes Leap to the Sea at The Shed Space in Brooklyn, NY and Sharpless at Fluorescent Gallery in Knoxville, TN.

For more information, contact the Department of Art at 615-343-7241 or email or

*Above: Douglas Degges, 30 Panfish/Trout Worms, clay, marble and plastic lid, 5 x 4.75 x 1.25 inches, 2018. Below: Sarah P. Smith, All Us Kids, silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 inches, 2018.

Posted by on July 16, 2018 in Events, HART, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Edward Raymond Kinstler’s Portrait of Eddie George On View in Fine Arts Gallery

Eddie_George_regards_portrait (1)The oil portrait of Eddie George that Everett Raymond Kinstler began during a lecture and painting demonstration on March 24 is on display at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery through Saturday, July 14.

George, a former star Tennessee Titan turned professional actor, was among those attending a public unveiling ceremony at Cohen Memorial Hall, where he expressed admiration and gratitude for Kinstler’s work. “I was really overwhelmed to be included among the 2,000 subjects that he’s painted over his lifetime,” George said. “To be a part of that list is truly tremendous. I’m actually the first professional football player that he’s painted.”

George’s portrait briefly joins the Fine Arts Gallery’s current exhibition, “America Creative: Portraits by Everett Raymond Kinstler.” Other portraits on display include those of actor Katharine Hepburn, writer Tom Wolfe, singer Marian Anderson, entertainer Tony Bennett and former President Ronald Reagan.

Kinstler has generously gifted the portrait to George, who noted that the painting demonstration with Kinstler in Sarratt Cinema became an extraordinary conversation between the two artists. “We talked about everything from my career to his career, the people that he’s painted, the things that I’m doing now, including my family,” he said. “It really made me think about my life now as an artist.”

During the painting demonstration, the 91-year-old Kinstler talked about the importance of feeling for both an actor and a painter. He noted that what he tries to capture is not necessarily the perfect proportions of the person he paints, but rather the feeling of that individual’s personality.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, was curated by Joseph Mella, director, and Margaret Walker, assistant curator, of the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery, with special thanks to the artist, Peggy Kinstler and Michael Shane Neal.

Summer gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 12-4pm; and Saturday, 1-5pm. Parking is available, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95 on the Peabody campus, accessible from 21st Avenue South.

*Eddie George admires the work of noted portraitist Everett Raymond Kinstler during an unveiling ceremony at the Fine Arts Gallery July 10. (photograph courtesy of Vanderbilt University)

*Article by Ann Marie Deer Owens courtesy of Vanderbilt News (July 11, 2018)

Posted by on July 13, 2018 in Events, Fine Arts Gallery, HART, Nashville Arts, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Betsey Robinson Named 2018-2019 Mellon Fellow in Digital Humanities

The College of Arts and Science recently announced that Betsey Robinson, associate professor of history of art, is among the Mellon Fellows in Digital Humanities named for the 2018-2019 academic year. Robinson is recognized for her development and utilization of 3-D mapping and modeling techniques in Greek architectural archaeology.

The fellowships, administered through the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities and supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, enable members of the Vanderbilt community to pursue scholarly projects that involve the development and use of digital tools for humanistic inquiry.

“The level of scholarly achievement and intellectual enrichment that the center has generated in a short period of time is extraordinary,” said Bonnie J. Dow, divisional dean of humanities in the College of Arts and Science. “I am confident this next cohort of fellows will build on that success.”

Posted by on July 12, 2018 in Digital Humanities, HART, News, Technology, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Unveiling of Kinstler’s Portrait of Eddie George at Fine Arts Gallery on July 10

Kinstler-and-Eddie-George*Portraitist Everett Raymond Kinstler conducts a lecture and painting demonstration with Eddie George at Sarratt Cinema in March 2018. (YouTube)

A portrait of Eddie George by Everett Raymond Kinstler, one of America’s most notable portrait artists, will be unveiled at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery in Cohen Memorial Hall on Tuesday, July 10, at 6 pm.

George, a former star running back for the Tennessee Titans who has become a professional actor and performed on Broadway, will attend the unveiling ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.

Kinstler, whose famed portraits include those of eight U.S. presidents, began this oil portrait of George during a March lecture and painting demonstration in Sarratt Cinema. During the painting demonstration, Kinstler talked about the importance of feeling for both an actor and a painter. He noted that what he tries to capture is not necessarily the perfect proportions of the person he paints, but rather the feeling of that individual’s personality.

“I don’t worry about the people who say the mouth is not right or the jaw is out of proportion,” Kinstler told the audience. “I know when I have the feeling right.” The 91-year-old Kinstler has painted more than 2,000 individuals—leaders in almost every field—during his career.

George’s portrait will join the Fine Arts Gallery’s current exhibition, “America Creative: Portraits by Everett Raymond Kinstler.” His portraits, on display at the gallery through Saturday, July 14, include actor Katharine Hepburn, writer Tom Wolfe, singer Marian Anderson and entertainer Tony Bennett.

The exhibition has been curated by Joseph Mella, director, and Margaret Walker, assistant curator, of the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery, with special thanks to the artist, Peggy Kinstler and Michael Shane Neal.

For more information on the unveiling ceremony, email Margaret Walker ( or call (615) 343-1702. Parking is available, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95 on the Peabody campus, accessible from 21st Avenue South.

*Article by Ann Marie Deer Owens and Bonnie Ertelt courtesy of Vanderbilt News (July 2, 2018)

Posted by on July 5, 2018 in Events, Fine Arts Gallery, HART, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

HART Faculty Part of Trans-Institutional Program in Digital Cultural Heritage Research Cluster

DigitalCulturalHeritageResearchClusterTracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, and Betsey Robinson, associate professor of history of art, are among nine faculty participants in the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Cluster through a Vanderbilt Initiative Award provided by the 2018 transformational Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) initiative. Inspired by UNESCO’s mission to protect cultural heritage in danger of destruction, this program will harness expertise across multiple disciplines and schools at Vanderbilt to develop new digital methods for identifying, studying and preserving historic cultural expressions.

Miller and Lynn Ramey, professor of French, are the lead faculty for the project. Other faculty participants from the College of Arts & Science are John Janusek, associate professor of anthropology; Jane Landers, professor of history, and Ole Molvig, assistant professor of history. From the Blair School of Music is Joy Calico, Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair of Music Literature/History; from the Divinity School, David Michelson, assistant professor of the history of Christianity;  and from the School of Engineering, Robert Bodenheimer, associate professor of computer science.

Vanderbilt Initiative Awards provide seed funding to help faculty launch innovative ideas for discovery and learning with colleagues from diverse disciplines.

This project connects humanistic research with emergent digital technologies for the creation and manipulation of 3-D models, immersive digital environments and complex databases and data formats capable of modeling the heterogeneous and complex forms of humanistic data. These resources will support digital research and next-generation undergraduate and graduate education on cultural heritage. Faculty will unify traditional disciplinary-specific university infrastructures to foster and maximize the impact of Digital Cultural Heritage projects already underway, while fueling new initiatives.

*Photograph courtesy of the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Cluster

Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Digital Humanities, HART, News, Technology, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Fine Arts Gallery Presents Documentary Film Screening of “Everett Raymond Kinstler: An Artist’s Journey” on June 28

PlummerProsperoVanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery will present a documentary film screening of Everett Raymond Kinstler: An Artist’s Journey on Thursday, June 28, at 6 pm in Cohen Memorial Hall, room 203. Prior to the screening, the gallery will be open from 12 to 6 pm. This event is organized in conjunction with the current exhibit America Creative: Portraits by Everett Raymond Kinstler, which closes July 14.

Everett Raymond Kinstler has painted more U.S. presidents, cabinet officers, captains of industry, scholars, and cultural icons than any other artist. Interviews with Kinstler himself, other portrait painters, and several celebrity subjects (Tony Bennett, Carol Burnett, and Tom Wolfe, among others) explore this body of work as well as Kinstler’s friendships with fellow artists Frank Dumond and James Montgomery Flagg. F. Murray Abraham narrates the 56-minute film that was produced by Dianne B. Bernhard and directed by Colin P. Russell.

Everett Raymond Kinstler: An Artist’s Journey is “a provocative documentary that invites the viewer into the life of one of America’s most important artists,” explained Bernhard, a renowned artist and art patron and founder of the Art Spirit Foundation. “The film takes us inside Kinstler’s New York City studio at the historic National Arts Club as he paints and speaks about his life’s work.”

This event is free and open to the public. Parking is available, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95, accessible from 21st Avenue South. 

*Everett Raymond Kinstler (b. 1926). Christopher Plummer as Prospero, 2011, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches. Collection of the artist.

Posted by on June 25, 2018 in Events, Fine Arts Gallery, HART, Vanderbilt University, VRC

HART Alumna Ellen Dement to Pursue Interest in Architectural History and Historic Preservation in Grad School

Dement-Ellen-200In pursuit of a career in architectural history and historic preservation, Ellen Dement, BA’18 (History and History of Art), is headed to graduate school this fall at the University of Washington in their master’s degree program in architectural history and theory. Dement will study the architectural, cultural, and political forces that have shaped architecture, dovetailing with an interest observed throughout her undergraduate projects and papers while at Vanderbilt.

Dement was awarded highest honors for defending her undergraduate honors thesis, “A Poem in Stone: The Nashville Customs House and William Appleton Potter’s Government Architecture.” Potter, who worked almost exclusively in the High Victorian Gothic style during his tenure as Supervising Architect of the Treasury customshouse01from 1875 to 1876, designed the Nashville Customs House in 1875. According to Dement, critics praised Potter’s designs, with one newspaper (Commercial Times, February 28, 1876) calling them “poems in stone” and “a surprising reversal of…dreary government buildings.”

The characteristics of Potter’s government designs “are exemplified in the Nashville Customs House, with its Gothic forms, extensive stone carving, and monumental tower,” wrote Dement. “At the same time, however, the building embodies meanings beyond those of its architectural design. Its construction came after nearly two decades of political delays occasioned by the Civil War, and the building was used as a symbol of Reconstruction that would bring economic prosperity to the city of Nashville.”

Dement received a Frances and John Downing Undergraduate Research Travel Award in 2017 to visit the National Archives in College Park, MD, and Washington, DC, where most of the original records on the Nashville Customs House are located. She also did research at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural Library, which houses records related to Potter’s private practice as an architect.

The Downing trip also included research for her Vanderbilt Library Fellowship project, “Visualizing Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building.” Vanderbilt’s Fine Arts ellendementwoolworthbldgmanagerGallery had recently acquired the Reiman Collection—more than 150 previously unknown architectural drawings of New York’s Woolworth Building—from Cass Gilbert’s office, including elevations, floor plans, mechanical drawings and details. These working drawings complement those in other public collections, notably at the New York Historical Society and the Library of Congress.

When it opened in 1913, the 60-story Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan offered the latest technological innovations in the tallest building in the world: direct elevator access to two subway lines, wind bracing, electrical power generation, heating, and cooling.

For her Library Fellowship project Dement created a website that contextualizes these newly acquired architectural drawings within the larger body of sources on the Woolworth Building. She visited two other collections on the Woolworth Building at the Library of Congress and the New York Historical Society, “and had the amazing opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire Woolworth Building with the building’s manager, Roy Suskin,” wrote Dement. “Visiting the Woolworth Building in person provided a more holistic understanding of Vanderbilt’s collection of drawings and the building’s cultural significance in the history of New York.”

libraryofcongressThe Department of History presented Dement with the 2016-2017 Paul K. Conkin Award for her essay, “The Making of a National Library: The Library of Congress as a Cultural Product of the Late-Nineteenth Century,” which was published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Vanderbilt Historical Review.

In her paper Dement explores the transformation of the Library of Congress from simply a reference library for the legislature into the national library of the United States. It argues that this process was the product of American culture in the late nineteenth century and analyzes the rhetoric and methods—particularly the passage of the Copyright Law of 1870 and the construction of a separate Library of Congress building—used to create the institution’s status as a national library.

Posted by on June 18, 2018 in HART, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

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