Dr. Richard Brettell, 71, longtime professor of art and aesthetic studies and founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at The University of Texas at Dallas, passed away Friday, July 24.
“Rick was a remarkable scholar and educator and one of the leading voices in the world of art,” said UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson, who holds the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership. “His charismatic lectures have introduced thousands to great art as has his work to build the arts culture in Dallas. No one better epitomized a life well-lived than our brilliant, adventurous friend.”
Dr. Inga Musselman, UT Dallas provost, vice president for academic affairs and the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Chair of Academic Leadership, said, “He will be greatly missed as a key member of our arts faculty. Our founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History has been an exceptional colleague. Dr. Brettell’s inspired teaching, his exquisite scholarship and his compassionate leadership are among UTD’s irreplaceable treasures. Our community has richly benefited from his devotion and influence at our school. All of us at UT Dallas are profoundly grateful for his amazingly unique and unbelievably nuanced contributions to the University.”
Brettell was one of the world’s foremost authorities on impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930 and was revered in the Dallas arts community for his leadership, vision and knowledge.
“Rick’s infectious personality was invaluable in growing the arts in Dallas,” said Dr. Michael Thomas, director of the O’Donnell Institute. “It was his dynamic disposition and his friendship with so many successful people in the city that made all of his causes so successful.”
Brettell, who recently was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and to the board of directors of the Hermitage Museum Foundation, held the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair. Before joining UT Dallas in 1998, he was the Eugene McDermott Director at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Searle Curator of European Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was also an assistant professor of art history at UT Austin from 1976 to 1980, where he taught a famous course titled Modern Art and the City of Paris.
Brettell was instrumental in developing the vision for an institute at UT Dallas that would be dedicated to the elevation of preserving and expanding the knowledge of art throughout the world. With a $17 million gift from arts patron Edith O’Donnell, the art institute was created in 2014. It has since become a center dedicated to elevating, preserving and expanding innovative research and education in art history with a community of scholars dedicated to collaboration and exchange.
Under Brettell’s leadership, the institute created a partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art, launched major international research partnerships with Nanjing University in China and the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy, and collaborated with partner institutions to present symposia, exhibitions and publications. In 2018 the O’Donnell Institute inaugurated a new master’s degree program in art history.
“The Edith O’Donnell Institute, in many ways, typifies the strength of Rick’s vision and his effectiveness in conveying that vision to others,” said Thomas, who holds the Richard R. Brettell Distinguished University Chair and is a professor in the School of Arts and Humanities (A&H). “He wasn’t just an idea guy. He was an idea guy who made things happen.”
Many colleagues said it was Brettell’s loyalty and friendships that allowed him to take ideas and turn them into significant projects.
“Rick Brettell had an amazing number of vibrant, close, admiring friends — the cultural leaders of Dallas and beyond,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, UT Dallas Distinguished Scholar in Residence, professor of physics, and former provost and executive vice president. “People loved to be around him because he was dynamic, amusing and affectionate. And he also was full of knowledge.”
Dr. Nils Roemer, interim dean of A&H, director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies, said Brettell was known for being very daring.
“Rick was relentless in his pursuit to build, create and shape the arts at UT Dallas and throughout the city; his energy was also infectious,” he said.
In addition to Brettell’s acclaimed status as an art historian, Roemer said, he also was a big advocate for his UT Dallas graduate students.
“He would spend a lot of time reviewing dissertations, as well as supervising and counseling. He would do anything to help students get their degrees,” he said.
In 2017, with a generous gift from philanthropist Margaret McDermott, the University honored Brettell through the establishment of the Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, a biennial honor recognizing established artists whose body of work demonstrates a lifetime of achievement in their field. Winners receive a $150,000 prize and participate in a campus residency, where they spend time interacting with faculty and students.
The award is just one of the many Brettell-inspired legacies that will continue to increase UT Dallas’ ability to provide deep and wide resources for research and teaching in the arts.
Brettell also organized numerous, high-profile exhibitions, which he believed were an impactful way to teach people about art and its importance. He was a prolific author and lectured nationally and internationally. Prior to his death, he was completing the definitive catalogue raisonné of the work of Paul Gauguin.
Longtime friends and colleagues Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes recently established the Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes Travel Award To Honor Rick Brettell. The fund will provide UT Dallas students opportunities to design and experience one-of-a-kind trips, both international and domestic, unrelated to specific academic requirements.
Architectural renderings soon will be done on an art and performance complex called, under Brettell’s inspiration, the Athenaeum. Among the pieces that will be on display at the new complex will be those from the Barrett Collection and the Trammell and Margaret Crow Museum of Asian Art, both of which were donated to UT Dallas in the last two years.
Wildenthal said the Athenaeum, along with the scholarly work done at the O’Donnell Institute, ensures that Brettell’s vision for UT Dallas as a center of arts excellence will come to fruition.
“We have lost a great colleague and a great inspirational friend, but his legacy of arts excellence will continue to grow at UT Dallas,” he said.
Statement from UT System Chancellor
UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken released the following statement on the death of Dr. Richard Brettell:
“Nana and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rick Brettell, a friend whose visionary leadership enriched two UT institutions and helped transformed the arts landscape in Dallas.
“In the 1970s, Rick spent four years teaching at UT Austin, rising to become the head of the art history department. He went on to serve as director of the Dallas Museum of Art for several years. But it was at UT Dallas that he created his unmatched legacy and raised UTD’s national profile in the arts immeasurably. As founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, he was instrumental in bringing the Barrett Collection of rare Swiss art to the University, and in the acquisition of the Crow Museum of Asian Art in the Dallas Arts District. His impact on the future of UTD will benefit generations.
“Throughout his career, Rick harnessed his enormous energy and talent to share his love of the arts with Dallas, Texas, and the world. And the same spirit that made him a professional force made him a beloved and unforgettable friend to thousands. It was a privilege to be one of those thousands, and our hearts go out to his wife, Caroline, the entire Brettell family and all who loved Rick. He truly was one of a kind.”
Inspired by a common love of travel and worldly experiences, Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes are honoring their longtime friend and colleague Dr. Richard Brettell, founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at The University of Texas at Dallas, with a major planned gift to fund transformative travel experiences for University students.
Kendall and Holmes have committed a significant contribution — the University’s largest planned gift of cash recorded to date — to establish the Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes Travel Award To Honor Rick Brettell. The fund will provide UT Dallas students opportunities to design and experience one-of-a-kind trips, both international and domestic, unrelated to specific academic requirements.
“I have loved to travel as long as I can remember,” said Kendall, owner of Rob Kendall Presents, a company that organizes unique experiences for small group travel. “Before, during and after my airline career, I traveled extensively. That included nine documented trips around the world, as well as countless other journeys. But it was Rick Brettell who taught me how to add purpose, depth and meaning to travel.”
Kendall and Brettell first met in the late 1980s when Brettell was the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. For three decades, the two have collaborated on delivering art-centric educational experiences around the world for travelers from Dallas and beyond. In 2016, Brettell arranged for two UT Dallas students to join one of the trips to Mexico, where the group explored Puebla and Mexico City.
“Kathleen (Alva BA’17) and I were given the opportunity to study baroque architecture in the churches of Puebla under the guidance of Dr. Brettell, to taste mole sauce and learn how it is prepared, and to see the fantastical creatures displayed on the streets of Mexico City for the annual Alebrijes competition,” said Nancy Fairbank BA’17. “It is this type of experience that made my education at UTD truly holistic, extending far beyond the confines of just my degree courses.”
The company of the two students, who were both Eugene McDermott Scholars, brought a new element to the travel experience, ultimately planting the desire for Kendall and Holmes to provide similar opportunities for future generations of UT Dallas students.
“The experiential aspect of travel is so important: It not only teaches us to be better students and academics, but to be better human beings by exposing us to new ideas and cultural norms,” said Fairbank, who is pursuing her law degree at Harvard Law School. “I am so grateful that Rob and Tony are honoring Dr. Brettell with such an amazing gift — one that will undoubtedly change the lives of countless UT Dallas students.”
Once established, the competitive travel awards will be distributed annually to fund what the donors affectionately call the “Rick and Rob trips.”
“Rob and Tony have decided to commit their lifetime assets to fund what will surely become the premier travel program for undergraduates and graduate students in the nation,” Brettell said. “UTD students will be able to travel from Easter Island to Ireland, from Naples to Nanjing, from prehistoric to postmodern landscapes. There are, in short, no limits to the temporal geography of Rob Kendall and Tony Holmes’ travel program for UT Dallas.”
Kendall and Holmes said the planned gift is “an expression of their respect and affection for Brettell.” They hope it adds a new dimension to the University’s educational portfolio while complementing the offerings of the UT Dallas Athenaeum, Brettell’s visionary campus project to enhance art access and appreciation throughout the North Texas region.
Brettell, who also holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair, is one of the world’s preeminent scholars of impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930. He is currently completing the definitive catalogue raisonné of the work of Paul Gauguin and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
“It is Rick who inspired this gift of experience for many future students,” Kendall said. “For years, we have led art-centric educational journeys across the globe. To be able to offer those experiences to young minds — especially those who may not otherwise have the financial means to fund such opportunities — is priceless.”
“Painful Remembrance” is the subject of the Winter 2020 issue of Athenaeum Review, with five articles exploring how difficult memories are shaped and passed on through literature, the arts, and public monuments. The special issue is guest-edited by Nils Roemer, interim dean of the School of the Arts and Humanities, director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies.
The capital city of Germany is the subject of Roemer’s article. In “Berlin, Intersecting Traumas,” Roemer shows how the German capital’s urban landscape reveals layer upon layer of the city’s past. Monuments such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe offer testimony to the victims of the Holocaust, while the very “tormented and twisted zig-zag structure” of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum building offers a clue as to the history it exhibits. “It is witnessing,” Roemer writes, “that allows for the representation of past traumas and anguish.”
Through examples from ancient Rome, China, and contemporary America, Dennis M. Kratz explores how myths shape our collective memory of the past in his article, “Mythremembering: Memory and Its Fictions.” According to Kratz, the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, Senior Associate Provost, and Director of the Center for Asian Studies, “The transformation of memories emerges from the creativity of the human mind and our indomitable dissatisfaction with limits.” Mythremembering, he writes, “involves a pattern of departures from accuracy or evidence to enhance the power of a story, usually to the advantage of the person telling the story.”
Combining personal experience with historical analysis, Richard R. Brettell explores the differing responses to two American national tragedies in “A Tale Of Two Memorials: Dallas And New York,” comparing the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza in Dallas with the National September 11 Memorial in New York. “In the case of the Kennedy Assassination, there was a greater inclination on the part of the city of Dallas and of the Kennedy family to forget than to be reminded of the location of this event, to take away the inevitable stain on the city’s reputation,” writes Brettell, who is the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair of Art History, and Founding Director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History.
Sarah da Rocha Valente contributes “Exile At Home, or At Home in Exile,” a reflection on belonging, family and history, centered on a visit to her sister’s gravesite in Brazil. Valente, visiting assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses her experience to reflect on the meaning of exile, as expressed in the literature of Victor Hugo, Josef Brodsky, and Mario Benedetti. Remembering her experience across different languages and literatures, Valente writes, “Portuguese provides the perfect possibility of missing the unknown, the yet-to-be, the never been, the gone already. The word saudade is all these things and more.”
The issue also includes “Blinded,” an excerpt from Jane Saginaw’s memoir, Because the World is Round, which chronicles the author’s 1970 trip around the world with her father, brother, and mother who was wheelchair-bound from polio. In the memoir, Saginaw remembers meeting Holocaust survivors in Tel Aviv and Dallas as a young person, and grappling with how to understand their stories. Recalling an encounter with Mr. Hausman, a survivor, neighbor and shopkeeper in Tel Aviv, she writes, “I felt less like a nuisance and more like an intruder now, entering personal territory where I didn’t belong and wasn’t wanted.” Saginaw, now a student in the Ph.D. Program in Humanities, was formerly a trial attorney with Baron and Budd in Dallas, and later a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Athenaeum Review is published twice yearly by the School of Arts and Humanities and the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. Featuring essays, reviews and podcasts by leading scholars in the arts and humanities, the journal is availalable online, as well as in print at local bookstores or through the UT Dallas Marketplace.
Dr. Richard Brettell, founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, has been appointed to the board of directors of the Hermitage Museum Foundation, which contributes to the preservation and promotion of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and its more than 3 million objects.
“The Hermitage Foundation is a distinguished group of philanthropists and museum professionals, all of whom have long histories with that fabled museum and are close friends of its distinguished honorary chairman, Mikhail Piotrovsky,” Brettell said. “It is an honor to be named to the Hermitage Foundation board of directors at this difficult moment in U.S.-Russian political and cultural relations.”
Brettell, who also holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair, has worked on projects with the Hermitage for years and is among the world’s foremost authorities on impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930. He has been an international museum consultant with projects in Europe, Asia and the U.S., including the Millennium Gift of the Sara Lee Corporation, the largest corporate gift to the arts in American history.
Torkom Demirjian, chairman of the board of the Hermitage Museum Foundation, said he was very pleased that Brettell had agreed to join the foundation board.
“Dr. Brettell is one of the great minds in our country and, in the field of culture and art, he is by far the best. I look forward to working with Dr. Brettell to help the Hermitage Museum as well as help bridge the wide political divide that we find ourselves in between our country and Russia,” he said.
The Hermitage Museum Foundation raises funds for restoration and conservation projects as well as securing the donation of art and artifacts for the museum. The foundation also hosts educational outreach programs and supports various exhibitions.
Dr. Mark Rosen, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, has been elected president of the Italian Art Society, an academic group that organizes and encourages the study of Italian art.
Rosen, an associate professor of art history and aesthetic studies, examines the relationship between art and cartography in early modern Europe as well as Italian art from the late Middle Ages through the middle of the 17th century.
“This is the era of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello and Raphael — once considered at the very center of all art history and the first era to fuse classicism and modernity,” Rosen said. “But as the field has necessarily expanded to think about global patterns, non-European traditions, and the economics of art, teaching and studying those artists is newly challenging and exciting.”
The Italian Art Society has a membership of more than 350 established and emerging scholars, graduate students and museum professionals. It promotes scholarly exchange through lectures and conferences on topics such as medieval studies, the Renaissance and architectural history. It also hosts lectures and awards travel and research grants to member scholars.
During his two-year tenure as president, Rosen said he hopes to arrange an Italian art conference at UT Dallas.
“This society is great for connecting scholars who are studying Italian art, whether ancient Rome, the Baroque, Futurism, or Arte Povera. It’s an honor to lead it,” he said. “It’s also a tremendous opportunity to get the word out about UT Dallas and all the good things happening here and through the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History,” where Rosen is a scholar.
The School of Arts and Humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas has three new tenured and tenure-track faculty members who bring a wide range of expertise — in gender, race and law enforcement studies, poetry and creative writing, and art history.
“I am excited about our new hires, who already are very accomplished. They bring fresh perspectives in their respective fields and already have expressed an interest in collaborating across disciplines,” said Dr. Nils Roemer, interim dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies.
Roemer assumed the interim dean role Sept. 1 and continues his position as director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies.
Earlier this year, Dr. Michael Thomas was named director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and teaches classes in art history. The institute, created in 2014 with a generous endowment from arts patron Edith O’Donnell, is the first art history research institute founded in the digital age. Thomas also holds the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair and serves as a professor of arts and humanities while directing the school’s art history graduate studies program.
Dr. Anne Gray Fischer’s research focuses on the ways that women in history have been policed by law enforcement officers — why some are targeted and others are not. She uses the information to examine how and why police power expanded in America in the 20th century. Fischer received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Brown University.
Roemer said Fischer is a true believer in the importance of historical research and thinking.
“Her research and teaching offer a much-needed historical perspective on political issues of our societies,” he said.
Dr. Nomi Stone, an anthropologist, poet and scholar, is writing a collection of poems about science and scientists. Her most recent collection of poems, “Kill Class,” is based on her anthropological fieldwork on American militarism and the 2003 Iraq War. Stone received a PhD in cultural anthropology from Columbia University, a Master of Philosophy in Middle East studies from the University of Oxford and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Warren Wilson College.
“Students will be excited to travel with her to the boundaries of anthropological fieldwork and poetic creativity,” Roemer said.
In addition to the O’Donnell Institute and the Ackerman Center, the school is home to a number of centers for research and scholarly study, including the newly established Center for Asian Studies. The school offers degree programs in visual and performing arts, art history, historical studies, history, history of ideas, humanities, Latin American studies, literature and philosophy.
New Tenure-Track Faculty
Dr. Anne Gray Fischer, assistant professor of history
Previously: visiting assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington
Research Interests: gender, race and law enforcement, specifically policing in U.S. cities during the 20th century
Quote: “I’m very excited about the STEM-forward profile of the students at UT Dallas because one of my favorite things to do is to expose history to students who otherwise might not have encountered a lot of these stories. I hope that students, regardless of their future career paths, will feel the lasting benefit and reward of engaging in historical thinking. I’m also very excited to discover collaborative possibilities with faculty across campus. I look forward to seeing what happens when faculty members get together, create an inspired spark and develop new insights.”
Dr. Nomi Stone, assistant professor of creative writing and literature
Previously: postdoctoral research assistant at Princeton University
Research Interests: poetry and poetics; anthropoetics; empire and militarism; phenomenology and affect; science studies
Quote: “I love the hybridity and cross-pollination at UT Dallas. I’m an anthropologist and a poet — a scholar who also writes creatively — so this is just the exact right fit for me. Braiding these things together is my passion. I haven’t seen a place that does collaboration as well as this place. I see a real investment in bringing seemingly disparate things together.”
Mexican diplomat Jorge Alberto Lozoya has been selected to receive the 2019 Richard Brettell Award in the Arts at The University of Texas at Dallas. The award includes a $150,000 prize and provides an opportunity for the campus community to meet and talk with the ambassador during a three-day residency.
Established in 2016 with a gift from Margaret McDermott, the Brettell Award — one of the richest art prizes in the world — recognizes the lifelong work of individuals working in visual arts, music, literature, performance or architecture/design. Presented every two years, the first award was given to famed landscape architect Peter Walker, who designed the University’s campus enhancement project.
Dr. Richard Brettell, founding director of UT Dallas’ Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and in whose honor the award was established, said he was convinced that Lozoya was the best choice for this year’s award when he attended a meeting in Puebla, Mexico, for the International Museum of the Baroque — a project conceived and led by Lozoya.
“This museum — initiated without a permanent collection but with the very latest in museum technology, opening on time and on budget with money from the state of Puebla and private sources — is a true miracle,” said Brettell, the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair.
Lozoya has broad experience in international cooperation and cultural affairs. He has been associated with some of the top Mexican and international academic institutions, with a special interest in Asian civilizations and prospective studies, and international negotiations.
“Ambassador Lozoya has made the most persistent and diverse use of culture to cross boundaries that are, in all cases, made by humans and are not ‘natural,’” Brettell said.
A Latin American pioneer on Asian affairs, Lozoya has introduced numerous Mexicans and international scholars to the study of Chinese, Japanese and Indian civilizations at The College of Mexico AC, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Ibero-American University and the Matías Romero Institute, among other prestigious institutions.
Lozoya’s diplomatic career began in 1969 when he was appointed the Honorary Consul of Mexico in Taipei, while a student at National Taiwan University. He established the Mexican Consulate in Seville, Spain, on the occasion of the 1992 World Expo and served as ambassador to Israel, representative to the Palestinian government and ambassador to Malaysia.
In 2017 he was appointed the founding director of the International Museum of the Baroque, a position he held until his retirement in May.
“The award to Ambassador Lozoya is made at a time of strained political and social relationships with his native Mexico and is designed to recognize the range and depth of culture in that great nation, which is older than ours,” Brettell said. “I hope that through this simple recognition of cross-border cultural diplomacy, we can begin to repair the rifts and misunderstandings that have come between our two nations.”
Amy Lewis Hofland, director of the Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas, collaborated with Lozoya on the Baroque Museum project and said the decision to honor him was a brilliant one.
“I think the world needs to hear his voice right now,” she said. “He’s very much a scholar who cares about the future and the past. And I think that’s something that students should be exposed to.”
Lozoya called the Brettell Award recognition “undeserved” but said his long involvement in cultural and international affairs was for a purpose.
“As a diplomat, I was highly concerned with the advancement of global efforts to diminish tension and violence through a better understanding of foreign social interests. Being a historian, I soon learned that getting to know the goals of your neighbors is not a simple matter,” he said. “If you do not work on mutual understanding, conflict is the natural result. I insist on the need to labor on cooperation; art and culture are important tools in the achievement of this purpose.”
According to Dr. Whitney Stewart, there’s a different way to tell the story of how people lived during the antebellum period in the U.S. By looking at the objects found at old plantations, for example, the disparity of life in the South becomes clearer.
“I study how race as an idea, as a construct, becomes reality through the things we create, consume and discard,” said Stewart, an assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities and an affiliate of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at The University of Texas at Dallas. “Whether a quilt, a piece of furniture, landscaping or architecture, I’m interested in how we inscribe our own ideas of race into those spaces and objects.”
Stewart is writing a book that explores the racialized nature of “home” in the 19th-century South. In it, she explores plantations in Texas and Louisiana and how African Americans were motivated to create their homes during and after slavery, as well as the ramifications that have come from a racialized understanding of home.
“I want people to remember that these sites were not just sites of labor for enslaved people, but were also sites of living and sites of homebuilding, or what I call ‘home-making.’ Because when we think about home-making and how our society looks at home-making on plantations, we typically focus only on the white families,” Stewart said.
According to Stewart, because plantation tours typically focus on the large, ornate mansions, tourists who visit Southern plantations rarely get the full story of life in the South.
“Tourist sites throughout the South have continued this racialized landscape that evolved in the 19th century through to today. Visitors move through these spaces not realizing that enslavers, the men and women who were enslaving other people, were creating spaces that were meant to privilege whiteness over blackness,” she said.
Stewart has been working with state historians and plantation directors to encourage them to reorient the stories that are shared at Southern plantations.
“I would want to see tours start in the slave cabins and quarters because those actually are the places where the vast majority of people on these medium-to-large plantations lived. And that’s where they sought to build ‘home.’ Then we can expand out and look at the mansion, the fields, and the other areas of labor and living and begin to really understand the complex relationships and lives that were built on these plantations,” she said.
Last summer Stewart visited Southern plantations to research home life in the 19th century. This summer she received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities at the American Antiquarian Society, which will allow her to engage in archival research at the society. She will take the location-based research she has done and, by looking at published materials, broaden it beyond individual plantations to regional and national contexts.
She said her book should provide context and guidance for three different groups: academics, public historians and the general public.
“I want people to ask more questions and to ‘read the landscape’ and their material world in more nuanced ways,” Stewart said.
This article originally appeared in the UTD News Center.
Dr. Michael Thomas of The University of Texas at Austin has accepted appointment as director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History (EODIAH) at The University of Texas at Dallas, succeeding founding director Dr. Richard Brettell. As director, Thomas will hold the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair in Art History and serve as a professor in UT Dallas’ School of Arts and Humanities while directing its graduate studies programs and the array of local, national and international engagements for which EODIAH has become noteworthy.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Thomas, who will start June 1. “UT Dallas is one of the most exciting and dynamic places for art history in the country right now.”
Brettell, in relinquishing his active administrative duties, will continue to contribute to the activities of EODIAH, and to broader University initiatives, as professor of art history in the School of Arts and Humanities and holder of two endowed professorships: the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair of Art History.
The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History was established by a gift of $17 million from Edith O’Donnell in 2014. This gift was supplemented with $10 million from the Texas Research Incentive Program, yielding aggregate endowments of $27 million with which EODIAH can support faculty and student research and collaborations with institutions in the region and around the world in the promotion of art historical scholarship. The institute, housed in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building on the UT Dallas campus, also maintains facilities in the Dallas Museum of Art. The institute has co-sponsored symposia, lectures, fellowships and research programs regionally with the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Crow Museum of Asian Art, the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Kimbell Art Museum. In addition, faculty members at The University of Texas at Arlington have collaborated with UT Dallas colleagues through the medium of the institute.
Thomas currently serves as director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at UT Austin, which since 2011 has promoted interdisciplinary education and research in the archaeology and visual culture of ancient Italy from the Bronze Age through the fifth century A.D. After graduating from St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in art history from Duke University and a master’s degree in art history from SMU. Thomas received his PhD in art history from The University of Texas at Austin in 2001. He also has taught at SMU, the University of Michigan and Tufts University. He is a member of the Meadows Museum Advisory Council at SMU and a board member of the Etruscan Foundation. His publications have focused on the art, architecture, archaeology and numismatics of Etruscan and Roman Italy.
Thomas has been engaged in archeological excavations in Italy for more than 25 years, where he co-directs two projects: the Oplontis Project in Torre Annunziata near Naples, and the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project & Poggio Colla Field School in Tuscany. The Oplontis Project is an important international collaboration excavating a Roman villa buried by the A.D. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The full power of modern science is brought to focus on such topics as social history, material culture, paleobotany, geology and volcanology, and forensic anthropology, as well as Roman art, decoration and architecture. The results of the Oplontis research are being brought to the public through digital media, including three-dimensional tours of the buildings and grounds.
“Since I already work in ancient Italy, plus the fact that we already have strong Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History faculty members who work in Italy at this great center, I believe that ancient Italian, Renaissance and Baroque will always have a good place at UT Dallas,” Thomas said.
With his extensive experience in interdisciplinary research and large international collaborations and international experience, Thomas is well-qualified to further cultivate the many engagements of the O’Donnell Institute with other organizations. Such collaborations have included the Getty Research Institute, the Clark Art Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Currently, the O’Donnell Institute has an international collaboration with the Museum and Royal Park of Capodimonte in Naples, where a Center for the Art and Architectural History of Port Cities has been created, located at La Capraia, a restored 18th-century agricultural building that houses scholars and students. In addition, a prospective collaboration is being pursued with Nanjing University in China. The goal is to further develop current activities focused on the study in China of American art. With funds from the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago and the cooperation of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, EODIAH has sponsored symposia, faculty and graduate student fellowships, and the first university course on the history of American art ever offered in China.
Provost Inga Musselman, in announcing the appointment of Thomas, said, “Michael Thomas has impressed all of us who participated in the search for a successor to Rick Brettell. Rick will be the proverbial ‘hard act to follow,’ but Michael’s remarkable wide range of experience and his demonstrated administrative acumen convinced us that he has all of the attributes needed to guide EODIAH into the future.
“With Dr. Brettell, Dr. Thomas will be an essential member of the executive team for the UTD Athenaeum. President Benson, I and Dean Dennis Kratz expect that under Dr. Thomas’ leadership, EODIAH, as it develops and matures, will be a leading force for the advancement of education and research in art history nationally, and for enhancing the impact of art in its most comprehensive sense on the life of UT Dallas.”
The fall 2018 semester will welcome the first students admitted to the master’s program in the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History (EODIAH). The curriculum is tailored around faculty members’ varied backgrounds and access to extensive catalogs, collections and institutions throughout the Dallas area.
The new degree, offered through UT Dallas’ School of Arts and Humanities, is a major milestone in a plan first laid out by Mrs. Edith O’Donnell when she provided the initial gift that led to the institute’s creation in 2014. Prospective students have until Jan. 15 to apply for the inaugural class.
“This program will be part of our young but already flourishing research institute,” said Dr. Sarah K. Kozlowski, assistant director of EODIAH. “We are looking for strong undergraduate applicants with a background in art history who want to take the next steps in either their professional or academic career.”
Dr. Paul Galvez, research fellow and curriculum coordinator for the master’s program, stressed the value of their “object-based program.” Students can look forward to accessing the expansive galleries and collections on the UT Dallas campus, along with others housed at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and The Warehouse.
The intensive 16-month program also has a unique approach to curriculum. A student’s first year will cover foundational skills and knowledge taught by faculty, and will include critical curatorial skills.
“If you’re interested in art history but don’t want to spend all of your time in a library, we offer training for students who want to be in the reserves or our galleries,” Galvez said. “This training normally happens informally, but we are making it part of the curriculum for all our students.”
Students also will take 15 hours of master’s seminars covering a range of topics beyond what comparable programs offer, such as architecture and photography.
EODIAH faculty and staff are most excited about the final year practicum.
“Traditionally, the MA thesis has been exactly that — a long research paper,” Galvez said. “And that’s certainly one route, but what we are offering — which is unique — is a practicum that doesn’t have to just be writing.”
Examples of alternative projects include a catalog of interviews with a studio artist, developing an exhibition proposal, or refining curatorial skills.
“There’s a conservation project where we can hook the interested student up with a conservationist in the area so that they can study the process and learn from a professional,” said Lauren LaRocca, coordinator of special programs.