Fairfield University art historian to chair national symposium on American Realism


Image: Colleen Browning portraitPhilip Eliasoph, Ph.D., professor of art history at Fairfield University, will chair a symposium with live streaming on the web on artist Colleen Browning (1918-2003) and American Realist art on Monday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. Dr. Eliasoph's most recent book, Colleen Browning: The Enchantment of Realism, takes a deeper look at this prominent figure on the American Magic Realism scene, who will be the subject of concurrent exhibitions at the University's Bellarmine Museum of Art and Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery this winter.

The symposium will also feature three more nationally respected scholars: Dr. Henry Adams, a professor of American art at Case Western Reserve University who Art News singled out as one of the foremost experts in the American field; Dr. Gail Levin, an Edward Hopper scholar who teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; and Dr. Jonathan Weinberg, a noted artist, author and professor of art history at Yale University. It will be held at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) in Loretto, Penn., which holds many of Browning's significant paintings. The museum hopes the symposium will "animate and expand an ongoing appreciation for Realist art from multiple intellectual and artistic viewpoints."

"Although the topic of Realist and representational painting in America is not a new one, it has seen its peaks and valleys over the decades," said Dr. Eliasoph. "Since the time when New York stole the show from Paris in the post-WWII era, the avant-gardist, abstractionist and pop schools have triumphed. To some degree, many of our finest artists have remained obscured or under appreciated. This symposium is 'right in my wheel house', and I am deeply gratified and honored that my colleagues and friends - Drs. Adams, Levin, and Weinberg - will be traveling out to SAMA for this landmark event."

Browning was most closely associated with the postwar Magic Realist group including Paul Cadmus, George Tooker, Andrew Wyeth and Robert Vickrey. Dr. Eliasoph and the panelists will touch on their work in a wider discussion of Realism in a time when Abstract Expressionism was on the rise. Dr. Eliasoph is well versed on this period, having previously written books on both Cadmus and Vickrey.

The panelists will also discuss Realist art within the American avant-garde, how Realism has been marginalized and the function of Realist art in American public life through such means as WPA murals and Norman Rockwell magazine covers.

Dr. Eliasoph was appointed in 1975 as the first full-time art historian to join Fairfield's faculty in the early years of what is now the Department of Visual & Performing Arts. He has made significant contributions to the field of American art with his research and publications on a number of overshadowed "Magic Realist" masters, including Cadmus, Vickrey and Browning. He is a public arts advocate, serving as a commissioner for the Connecticut Office of the Arts and the founding co-president of the Town of Fairfield Arts Council.

Fairfield will celebrate Browning's contributions to art in two exhibitions running from Thursday, January 24 through Sunday, March 24. "Colleen Browning: The Early Works" will be on view at the Bellarmine Museum of Art and "Colleen Browning: A Brush with Magic" will be exhibited at the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery on campus. For more information, visit www.fairfield.edu/arts.

To listen to the symposium on the web, visit http://tinyurl.com/82vo5p7. The symposium will be available as a podcast after the event at the same web address.

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 15, 2012

Vol. 45, No. 14