Maggie Cao, Columbia University and Erin Pauwels, Indiana University | Newberry

Maggie Cao, Columbia University and Erin Pauwels, Indiana University

Friday, October 24, 2014

2-5 pm


Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

“Bierstadt’s Butterflies and the End of Landscape”
Maggie Cao, Columbia University

Late in his career, Albert Bierstadt painted butterflies, using chance to imprint still-wet oil paint across paper folds. Exhibiting the mechanics of literal closure, these curious artworks, so unlike his canonical canvases, engaged with a broader crisis of landscape painting in post-frontier America. Bierstadt’s anxieties about landscape surfaced in the particularities of objects that fold and unfold, from butterflies to expanding railway cars—objects that might be considered the subconscious of a genre built upon expansionist ideology. His aesthetic struggles materially encode the spatial and temporal negotiations Americans navigated circa 1890.

“Sarony, Muybridge, and the Art of Motion Photography, 1865-1895”
Erin Pauwels, Indiana University

In 1866, American photographer Napoleon Sarony introduced a “Posing Apparatus” designed to solve the problem of representing bodies in motion. The device’s adjustable arms supported animated poses during lengthy exposures, expanding compositional possibilities to such a degree that Sarony was widely credited with revolutionizing the Art of photography. This paper evaluates the historical significance of Sarony’s revolution by considering his “artistic” photographs alongside Eadweard Muybridge’s “scientific” depictions of human locomotion. Drawing upon both artists’ gridded motion studies, it examines how bodies moved and were manipulated before their cameras, and questions how photography’s evolving artistic status informed reception of their work.

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.