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CONF: William Birch and the Complexities of American Visual Culture (5 Oct 2018, Philadelphia)

The symposium explores the visual, cultural, and social themes elicited from the work of Philadelphia artist William Birch (1755-1834) in celebration of the anniversary of the Visual Culture Program. The symposium in collaboration with William Birch, Ingenious Artist: His Life, His Philadelphia Views, and His Legacy aims to promote broad discussions on the continual resonance in American visual culture of the work of this premier enamel miniaturist, aspiring gentleman, and artist of the first American books of engraved views.

What can be learned from works conceived and executed by a non-native artist parallel to constantly (and infinitely) evolving fields and definitions of art, and means of art production, distribution, innovation, and appreciation?



Keynote Address

Wendy Bellion, Professor of Art History and Sewell Biggs Chair of American Art at the University of Delaware and author of Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America (2011).


Session 1: The Birch Network and Diaspora

William Birch, Painter-Architect

William L. Coleman, Newark Museum

Rendering the American Landscape: William Birch, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and the British Watercolor Diaspora

Julia A. Sienkewicz, Roanoke College


Session 2: The Urban Aesthetic in Popular Art

What William Birch Left Out: The Visual Culture of Disability in Early America

Nicole Belolan, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

James Kidder’s Market: Urban Views and the Art of Commerce

Whitney Martinko, Villanova University

Nicolino Calyo’s Wider View: Landscapes of Innovation

Rebecca Szantyr, Brown University


Session 3: Novelty in Graphic Art: Horizontoriums, Miniature Photos, and Grangerizing

Distorting Views of Philadelphia: Shifting Perspectives in “A Curious Horizontorium”

Laura Turner Igoe, Barnes Foundation

Tiny Mysteries: Decoding 19th-Century Microscopic Photographs from Philadelphia’s Langenheim Brothers

Daniel Seth Kraus and Byron Wolfe, Tyler School of Art, Temple University

Taking a Page from Tuckerman’s Book of the Artists: Nineteenth-Century Print Media and the Grangerization of American Art History

Erin Pauwels, Tyler School of Art, Temple University


Final Remarks

Elizabeth Milroy, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University


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