William Bartram Exhibition Slated for 2018

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on March 9, 2015


William Bartram, The Soft Shell’d Tortoise Got in Savanah River Georgia, ca. 1773, Gray and black wash over graphite on medium, cream, slightly textured laid paper (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Charles Ryskamp)

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From the YCBA:

This spring [2015], Laurel Waycott, a second-year PhD student in the History of Science and Medicine, and Jacob Stewart-Halevy, a sixth-year student and PhD candidate in the History of Art, will work with Amy Meyers, Director of the Center, and Florence Grant, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Director’s Office, on the first major exhibition of the work of William Bartram (1739–1823). A Philadelphia-based naturalist, Bartram was the first American-born artist to depict the flora and fauna of North America extensively. The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Center in 2018.

Waycott and Stewart-Halevy have chosen to study Bartram because of his distinctive position in eighteenth-century American natural history, both as a keen observer of American species and their environmental relationships, and as a correspondent with the natural history communities of Great Britain and the Continent.

“I am hoping to explore the dynamic among literary description, personal narrative, and imaginative naturalism in Bartram’s early efforts to catalogue North American species. The contradiction between the meticulous and the fanciful in his animal and botanical drawings seem key to the environmentalism of the moment,” said Stewart-Halevy.

Waycott says studying at the Center will add a unique dimension to her research into the intersections of art, science, and nature, and that the exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity to bring the intertwined histories of science and art to a wider public.

Meyers also appreciates the fresh perspectives the students will bring to the project. “I look forward to working with Laura and Jacob, who will inflect our study of Bartram with exciting new approaches to his life and work. Their cross-disciplinary training will enable us to interpret his contributions to the development of colonial and early republican art and science in important ways.” said Meyers.

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