CFP : "From Darkness to Light : American Writers in the Museums 1798-1898"

International conference :

“FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT : AMERICAN WRITERS IN THE MUSEUMS 1798-1898”

Venice, Italy, opening : 27 April 2016, 3 p.m. at Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice, Italy. The conference will continue on April 28.

Organizing institutions :

  •  COMITATO DI VENEZIA, SOCIETA’ DANTE ALIGHIERI
  •  SCUOLA GRANDE DI SAN ROCCO
  •  FONDAZIONE MUSEI CIVICI VENEZIA
  •  GRADUATE CENTER, THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

    With the patronage of DIPARTIMENTO DI STUDI LINGUISTICI E CULTURALI COMPARATI, UNIVERSITA’ CA’ FOSCARI, VENEZIA.

    Only in 1937 the magnificent Scuola Grande di San Rocco, in Venice, with its treasure of Tintorettos, WAS LIT WITH ELECTRICITY ; John Ruskin and Henry James both described its darkness, the difficuty of seeing the huge paintings, except for the Crucifixion in the Sala dell’Albergo.
    On the other hand, as early as 1816, The Rembrandt Peale Museum in Baltimorewas magnificently LIT BY GASLIGHT, and articles in the newspapers celebrated the event.

    Were American Museums ahead of Europe in using new lighting ? Did American writers and journalists visit American and European museums registering very different experiences ?

    The AIM of this international conference is not only to find out how Museums and Galleries were lit in the period 1798-1898, but above all to seewhat kind of comments on their viewing of the paintings were written down by visitors, writers of repute or little known writers, journalists, diarists.

    The initial date is that of the Louvre receiving works of art from Italy after Napoleon’s conquest of the Venetian Republic in 1797 (the Louvre had become a public museum in 1783) ; over the span of a centuryTHE EXPERIENCE OF WRITERS WRITING ON WORKS OF ART IN MUSEUMS, GALLERIES, CHURCHES WAS VERY DIFFERENT, DUE TO DIFFERENT LIGHTING SYSTEMS, but also due to the conservation of paintings and attribution or misattribution of paintings, and to the different number of visitors.

    Museums, churches, galleries were initially LIT ONLY BY CANDLES, then some of them were lit BY GASLIGHT, and finally by BY ELECTRICITY (now BY LED LIGHTING). Paintings were very often in very bad conditions or restored badly. People were few initially, then visitors multiplied after Thomas Cook invented “mass tourism”.

    CALL FOR PAPERS :

    We would like to receive paper proposals regarding the reactions of writers and journalists in the most important AMERICAN and EUROPEAN MUSEUMS (The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum, the Yale Jarves Collection, the Louvre, the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection, the Soane Museum in London, the Rome and Florence Museums, the Correr Museum and the Accademia in Venice, etc. etc.)
    EXPERIENCES RECORDED BY AMERICAN WRITERS IN OTHER OR SMALLER INSTITUTIONS will also provide useful insights.

    Papers should deal with AMERICAN WRITERS AND THE WRITTEN RECORDS OF THEIR VISITS (in travel writings, diaries, essays, fiction) or with the EXPERIENCE OF VISITORS AS RECORDED IN NEWSPAPERS.
    THE MATERIAL CONDITIONS in which the visits took place (lighting, conservation, crowds) will also be an area of enquiry, for which archival work will be necessary.

    DEADLINE FOR PAPER PROPOSALS :

    30 SEPTEMBER 2015

    Proposals and a short cv should be sent to the four addresses listed below :

  •  Rosella Mamoli Zorzi : Mamoli@unive.it (President, Comitato di Venezia, Società Dante Alighieri)
  •  Demetrio Sonaglioni : Demetrio.Sonaglioni@libero.it (Vicario, Scuola Grande di San Rocco)
  •  Gabriella Belli:gabriella.belli@fmcvenezia.it (Director, Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia)
  •  Katherine Manthorne:kmanthorne@gc.cuny.edu (Professor, Graduate Center, City University of New York)