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Art History and Biography

 2002 - 2003

In these workshops, scholars considered the status of biography in art history today. Surveying an artist's work and relating it to his or her life history has been criticized for relying on false assumptions about unities of period, life, and work. Even the very possibility of a coherent "subject" for biography has been questioned. Critics have emphasized that biography is a genre, conforming to rhetorical conventions and historically specific traditions of use. A generation of sustained critique has weakened biography's authority, but it is by no means certain that a wholesale jettisoning of biographical method would not entail significant losses for art historical research.

Participants included Marc Gotlieb (University of Toronto and Clark Fellow), James Herbert (University of California, Irvine, and Clark Fellow), Rosalind Krauss (Columbia University), Kathleen Nicholson (University of Oregon and Getty Scholar), Adrian Rifkin (Middlesex University), Debora Silverman (University of California, Los Angeles, and Getty Scholar), Paul Smith (University of Bristol and Getty Scholar), Sally Stein (University of California, Irvine, and Getty Scholar), and Ceclie Whiting (University of California, Los Angeles, and Clark Fellow).