Charles Cohen

Mary L. Block Professor, Art History, Visual Arts

Charles Cohen's scholarship has included research on the Italian Renaissance and Mannerist art. Currently he is examining the works of Venetian and other northern Italian artists as well as the themes of provincialism, religious art before the Council of Trent, and the changing role of drawing in the creative process in Italian art.

His latest book is The Art of Giovanni Antiorio da Pordenone: Between Dialect and Language and his other books are I disegni di Pomponio Amalteo and The Drawings of Giovanni Antonio da Pordenone. Currently, Cohen is working on a monograph on Lorenzo Lotto and a book on Venetian art of the 1530s.

Cohen has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship among numerous other awards. During his tenure at the University he has served as Chair of the Department of Art History for 10 years, as a Resident Master of Pierce Hall for 22 years, and as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts for three terms. Before joining the Chicago faculty in 1970, Cohen taught at Harvard University.

M.F.A., Princeton University. Ph.D., Harvard University.

Elizabeth Helsinger

John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service, English, Art History, Visual Arts

I have long been fascinated with the interplay between literature and the visual and material arts. My early work focused on art and social criticism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Ruskin, Hazlitt, Baudelaire, Pater): on the aesthetic or social assumptions that writers on the arts helped to formulate and the art that shaped their and their readers' sensibilities. Reading became a central term, as I studied how these critics borrow from and in turn shape techniques of looking and of more literary reading and interpretation. I've also worked extensively on landscape as an especially interesting aspect of the shared literary and visual culture of the first half of the nineteenth century - and as the site of competing, often highly politicized constructions of Englishness.

My recent research and writing has focused on the Pre-Raphaelite poet-artists, William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as a way of reconsidering questions of history, poetics, and the material cultures of later nineteenth-century Britain. Current projects include work on Victorian aesthetics; Swinburne's poetics and politics; and gothic, fantasy, and uncanny fictions of art, visuality, and history. My teaching, however, ranges more widely across genres and periods. I take for domain of inquiry the long nineteenth century, from c. 1770 to 1910. Victorian poetry, fiction, and non-fiction prose and Victorian painting, illustrated books, and other arts of design are central topics, but often starting in the late eighteenth century or reaching into the early twentieth. I also teach courses on the social history and literary production of 19th century women; on the relations between historiography and historical (and realist) fiction; on the problems of national representation in the early and mid-Victorian years; on image-text relations both more generally and with specific reference to particular topics: the Pre-Raphaelites; landscape; or the mutually implicated developments of museums and exhibitions and of book authorship, design, and publication.

Selected Publications

“Grieving Images: Elegy and the Visual Arts,” in Oxford Guide to the Elegy, ed. Karen Weissman, 2010. 

“Afterword: Blindness and Insights,” Landscape Theory, ed. James Elkins and Rachel DeLue (vol. 6 of The Art Seminar), Routledge, 2008.

“Ruskin and the Aesthetics of Color,” Nineteenth-Century Prose, Special Issue on Ruskin, 2007.

The“Writing of Modern Life: The Etching Revival in France, Britain, and the United States, 1850-1940, (edited and contributed title essay, University of Chicago Press for The Smart Museum, November, 2008).

Poetry and the Pre-Raphaelite Arts: William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, (Yale University Press, 2008).

Rural Scenes and National Representation, Britain 1815-1850, (Princeton University Press, 1997).

The Woman Question. Society and Literature in Britain and America, 1837-1883, co-authored with Robin Sheets and William Veeder, 3 vols., (Garland, 1983, and University of Chicago Press, 1989).

Ruskin and the Art of the Beholder, (Harvard University Press, 1982).

"Lyric Color: Pre-Raphaelite Art and Morris's Defense of Guenevere," The Journal of the William Morris Society, vol. No. 4, (Summer, 2004).

"Morris Before Kelmscott: Poetry and Design in the 1860s," The Victorian Illustrated Book, eds. Richard Maxwell, (University of Virginia Press, 2002).

"Pre-Raphaelite Intimacies: Ruskin and Rossetti," in Ruskin's Artists: Studies in the Victorian Visual Economy, eds. Robert Hewison, (Ashgate Press, 2000).

"Rossetti and the Art of the Book," in Book Illustrated: Text, Image, and Culture 1770-1930, eds. Catherine Golden, (Oak Knoll Press, 2000).

"Pre-Raphaelite Arts: Aesthetic and Social Experiment in the 1860s," Ideas Vol. 2, No. 2 (1998).

Robert Peters

Professor, Visual Arts

Robert Peters' art works often explore how language and other institutional structures shape perception and experience. He sees his artistic practice as a series of meditations on how consciousness is molded by the shared societal limitations and structures that give meaning to everything from the simplest gesture to the most complicated moral propositions.

These interests have been explored through a variety of forms: installations, performances, artist's books, drawings, and audio works. The subject and site of execution of a work are important in deciding its form. He prefers venues that are not entirely "art determined," in these circumstances the work can more easily nibble at the often rigid partition separating artistic activity from other pursuits. Physically the works are a collage of invented elements and elements drawn directly from the culture; these elements may be objects, images, fragments of text and sound, etc. Experientially the works teeter between being indistinguishable extensions of their physical "environments" and improbable re-enactments of the social underpinnings of those "environments"; the viewer is placed simultaneously inside and outside the subject. This duality is often established by using interactive elements in the work; in a number of performances such elements have been pivotal in determining the event's direction or outcome.

Peters has often collaborated and his collaborators have often been non-artists: historians, decorators, anthropologists, economists, magicians, critics, architects, etc. For Peters the logic of that collaboration is twofold: first, the greater the diversity of input, the broader the possible scope of the resultant work; and second, the weaker the ties to the conventions of art, the greater the possibility of closing the gap between "art" and "life."

He has exhibited widely and is currently preparing for an exhibition at Chiang Mai University Art Museum and also collaborating with Thai and other artists on a project outside Chiang Mai. He has received numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Foundation (an International Arts Award to Indonesia). His pursuit of his art interests came after an initial education in science and a brief career as a biometrician with the U.S. Forest Service.

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