Elina Gertsman, professor of art history, received a $20,000 grant from the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation for a collaborative project with Vincent Debiais of the Ecole des hautes études en sciences
sociales.

About the project

medieval abstract image

Guillaume de Digulleville, Pèlerinage de l’âme. Illumination by Maître du Livre d’heures de Johannette Ravenelle, ca. 1400-1410, Paris. BN Français 829, fol. 219v

Titled “Abstraction Before the Age of Abstract Art,” the project aims to reformulate the very way people approach the history of representation.

The concept of abstraction has always been considered the domain of modern and contemporary art; Gertsman and Debiais intend to challenge this narrative. Focusing on the long and rich tradition of nonfigurative art, which remains virtually unacknowledged by the field, they aim to identify and explore the concept of abstraction as it developed and transformed throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.

They plan to:

  • Create and continuously develop an internet-based platform for collecting images of abstraction in medieval and early modern art;
  • Host a series of workshops on abstraction in France and in the United States; and
  • Lead two public lectures in French and American diplomatic institutions presenting their results.

About the grant

The grant is administered in partnership with the French Embassy in the United States, with the additional support provided by the Paccar Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, the Franco-American Fulbright Commission, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the French Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research.