Unité d'histoire de l'art


Van Gogh Museum Visiting Fellow in the History of Nineteenth-Century Art




From 6-11 June 2021 the annual Van Gogh Museum Visiting Fellow in the History of Nineteenth-Century Art seminar, sponsored by the Van Gogh Museum and the University of Amsterdam, will take place online.

The aim of the Van Gogh Museum Visiting Fellow in the History of Nineteenth-Century Art seminar is to provide students and colleagues with the opportunity to study a single yet wide- ranging subject in nineteenth-century art through an intensive one-week workshop taught by a leading scholar in the field and supported by the Van Gogh Museum. The seminar will introduce important issues in the study of nineteenth-century art and provide an impulse for further research. Its aim is to encourage interest in various aspects of the discipline, and to provide participants not only with factual information, but more importantly with new methodological and theoretical perspectives on this important period in the history of art.

This year’s Visiting Fellow is Prof. Emeritus Dario Libero Gamboni (University of Geneva, Switzerland). Gamboni completed his studies at the University of Lausanne and EHESS, Paris. He has published widely on various areas of nineteenth-century art history, with a focus on the period around 1900, including on the relationship between art and literature; iconoclasm and vandalism; the question of visual ambiguity; and the artists Paul Gauguin and Odilon Redon. One of his recent topics has been artists’ and collectors’ museums, the subject of this year’s seminar.

Museums created by artists and/or collectors constitute a worldwide phenomenon, with peaks around 1900 and today. The seminar aims at examining key aspects of their history, geography, anthropology, aesthetics and “social life,” all of which throw a unusual light on those of museums in general. Preceded by a public lecture entitled Destination and Experience: Artists’ and Collectors’ Museums in the Past and the Present, the seminar sessions will consider issues of display, arrangement and “disposition”; (self-) representation and monumentalization; and sustainability, heritage and adaptation.


The seminar will consist of three sessions of about three hours each: Monday (7 June) and Wednesday (9 June) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Friday (11 June) from 1-4 p.m. A public introductory lecture will take place at the Van Gogh Museum on Sunday, 6 June (time to be announced.

All times are CET and links to both the lecture and the seminar will be provided in due course.


Seminar session 1: 7 June, 10 am – 1 pm

Display, Arrangement, “Disposition”


In recent years, the aesthetics and semantics of display have become an object of study for art historians. Artists’ and collectors’ museums provide a wealth of material for this research and allow us to analyse display not only through historical documentation, but also – to the extent that the original disposition has been preserved – in its multisensory reality. This session will focus on the museum created in London by the architect and collector John Soane, who obtained from the British Parliament in 1833 a law providing for the conservation of the arrangement of his collection and library.


Seminar session 2: 9 June, 10 am – 1 pm

(Self-)Representation, Monumentalization, Epiphany


Displays of objects belonging to a person or made by that person always represent him or her in some manner. When they cease to be temporary and aim at permanence, their function of (self-)representation comes to the fore. The museum housing them becomes a monument, all the more if it is a purpose-built edifice and plays the role of a mausoleum. This session will use as its main example the house-museum created by the French painter Gustave Moreau, inaugurated in Paris in 1903, in which the artist hoped that his art would “appear suddenly and in its entirety” at the moment of his death.


Seminar session 3: 11 June, 1 – 4 pm

Sustainability, Heritage, Adaptation


Collections of artworks tend to be made and unmade, after the will of their owners or as a result of economic pressure, transformations in taste, and inheritance. The creation of artists’ and collectors’ museums aims at resisting such forces with the help of various devices, but success is never assured. The history of these institutions is a revealing witness to the changing conditions and expectations faced by museums at large. The focus of this session will be on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, inaugurated in 1903 and expanded by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in 2005–12.


Interested? Please contact Dr. Rachel Esner: r.esner(at)uva.nl to sign up to receive the necessary links (please put “VGM Visiting Fellow” in the subject line).


4 juin 2021