Morna O’Neill Addresses the Intersection of Photography and Art

mornao'neilloct29Former HART Professor Morna O’Neill returned to the Vanderbilt campus on October 29 to deliver two lectures in conjunction with Vesna Pavlović’s “Lost Art” exhibition on display at Zeitgeist Gallery.  O’Neill, associate professor of art history in the Department of Art at Wake Forest University, teaches courses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art and the history of photography.  A major interest of hers is nineteenth-century Victorian photography.  Pavlović, assistant professor of art,  teaches courses in photography in the Department of Art at Vanderbilt.

O’Neill led an informal conversation at the Heard Library on “Everyday Images:  Vernacular Photography and the History of Art” and the ways in which photography has shaped our understanding of the past.  We also viewed some of the photographs by amateur and/or unknown photographers included in an exhibition at the Heard Library, “Picturing Our World,” and considered how these photographs have challenged the history of art to address image culture more broadly.

In an evening lecture entitled “The Screen and the Curtain:  On the Intersection of Photography and Art,” O’Neill explored aspects of the history of photography in relation to the history of painting as one way  to understand Pavlović’s “Lost Art” show at Zeitgeist Gallery.

“One early photographer referred to his practice as ‘the art of capturing a shadow,'” said O’Neill.  “In this conception, the photograph itself acts as a screen of the image made by light.  The history of painting, on the other hand, is often told in terms of the curtain:  the artist pulls back the drapery to reveal his or her skill in rendering the world.”  O’Neill explored how these two stands came together in the late nineteenth century, “when art historians began projecting paintings as slides, at the same moment when curators began hanging paintings on curtains.”

Prior to teaching at Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, O’Neill served as a postdoctoral research associate at the Yale Center for British Art.  She has published on British art, design, and photography, including Walter Crane:  The Arts and Crafts, Painting, and Politics (Yale University Press, 2011), which won the Historians of British Art Book Prize for 2012.

*Tracy Miller, Kevin Murphy, Morna O’Neill, and Mary Anne Caton view photographs in the “Picturing Our World” exhibit at the Heard Library.

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