Current IAS Grant Holders

Dissertation Research Grant

Lucia Colombari, PhD candidate, University of Virginia

“Conflicting Cultures: Exhibiting Italy at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco”

Envisioning the Modern City: Italian Futurism and American Art (1906-1929) critically examines the role of international exhibitions in the reception, dissemination, and transformation of Italian Futurism in the United States during the first decades of the twentieth century. It reverses commonly held notions that the Italian avant-garde had a marginal impact on the development of modern art in the U.S. Instead, this study expands the analysis of Futurism as a transnational movement and positions it at the core of American artists’ response towards the industrial and technological changes of the modern era. It contends that while a cohesive movement never developed in the U.S, Italian Futurism provided American artists the theoretical and pictorial solutions that bridged the gap between urban modernity and artistic expression. By interrogating exhibitions as highly politicized spaces in which arts, national identities, and international diplomacy intertwined, this dissertation seeks to enrich and complicate the understanding of the artistic and cultural relations between the U.S. and Italy. It compares cultural and political specificities of both countries to understand local responses and international postures towards urban life in visual culture and art practice. In particular, it sheds light on the role of international exhibitions as intermediaries for the transposition of the cultural knowledge of modern Italy across the Atlantic. Each exhibit fostered debates about modern art and became a catalyst for disseminating Futurists’ ideas and philosophy, thereby prompting U.S. artists to exploit the aesthetic potential of technology and urban transformations.

Alexa McCarthy, PhD candidate, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

“Blue Paper in Amsterdam and the Italian Tradition”

My doctoral research explores the transcultural use of the material of blue paper for drawings by artists working in sixteenth-century Venice and seventeenth-century Amsterdam. My focus is on artists’ use of paper made with blue fibers, or that which is dyed blue during its production. In addition to providing a readily available mid-tone, this carta da straccio, or rag paper, varied in texture, allowing friable drawing materials like chalk and charcoal to be absorbed into the paper at varying degrees. This interplay contributed to the sense of three dimensionality of forms drawn on a flat surface, particularly ideal for depictions of the human body. Figure studies on blue paper were part of the fabric of artists’ studios, and the poses depicted found their way into paintings and prints by these artists, their pupils, and their contemporaries. Understanding the artistic, cultural, and theoretical frameworks that led to the employment of blue paper in these two centers of commercial and artistic exchange is central to our understanding of the material’s role in artistic practice, as well as to our interpretations of the drawings themselves. Through object-based, technical, and archival research, as well as analyses of contemporary drawing manuals and texts on art, my research explores the significance of blue paper in Italian and Dutch artistic practice and stylistic development.

Research and Publication Grant

Dr. Joanne Allen, Senior Professorial Lecturer in Art History, American University

Transforming the Church Interior in Renaissance Florence

The significance of the church interior– one of the few sites where all members of society (lay and religious, men and women) could interact – is only matched by our lack of precise information regarding its articulation. My book focuses on a crucial yet completely lost aspect of the Italian church interior: rood screens or tramezzi. While some previous studies have revealed evidence for screens in individual Italian churches, my book has a broader aim: to systematically and holistically investigate choir layouts to provide a comprehensive overview of sacred space in the churches of Renaissance Florence. These structures segregated social groups, sanctified hierarchical spaces, and facilitated liturgical processions. My book includes five case studies – based on the mendicant, male and female monastic, and civic contexts – which demonstrate the almost ubiquitous presence of screens, each case presenting unpublished archival documentation and new architectural reconstructions whilst elucidating wider art-historical issues such as gender, patronage, and social class. Despite their prevalence and diverse functionality, tramezzi were widely destroyed in the later sixteenth century and their accompanying choir stalls were relocated to areas behind the high altar. My book situates Florence, and Italy more generally, within a broader context of pan-European societal and religious change, arguing that both the Protestant and Catholic traditions experienced a reorientation of religious belief, shift in ideological focus, and change in liturgical practice which found variable expression in architectural form. 

Dr. Jennifer Griffiths, Art Historian and Academic Coordinator, University of Georgia Cortona Program

Marisa Mori and the Futurists

Marisa Mori trained in Turin with Felice Casorati executing enigmatic paintings in the manner of his return-to-order magic realism and became the only female contributor to The Futurist Cookbook (1932). She exhibited internationally with the Futurists for a decade and was given a solo show by Anton Giulio Bragaglia at his gallery in Rome in 1934. In the same year she accepted F.T. Marinetti’s aviation challenge to fly in an early acrobatic biplane, receiving his seal of approval as a bona fide aeropainter. Unlike many of her peers she rejected the 1938 Race Laws. During the Nazi occupation of Florence she participated in the resistance by sheltering her friend and colleague Paola Levi-Montalcini, as well as her future Nobel-prize winning twin sister Rita, and their architect brother, Gino.

In Modern Women, Griselda Pollock argued that even though women were active makers of the modern moment, they are still mostly missing from conventional accounts. Only if we recuperate their narratives and accomplishments can we reevaluate the masculine myths of modernism. Few people know anything about the women of Italian Futurism in part because many of their archives and art works have been lost or destroyed. Drawing on a large family archive of surviving letters, notes, clippings, publications, photographs, and artworks, this monograph contributes to a growing pool of knowledge about the activities of Futurist women, offering a sustained and contextualized analysis of her major contributions, attempting, in Griselda Pollock’s words, to “understand a differentiating history of a nonheroic avant-garde ‘in, of, and from the feminine.’”

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