Art history and art’s Elina Gertsman awarded grant for international symposium

Elina Gertsman, professor of art history and art, and her colleague Vincent Debiais, from École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, received a generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The grant will be used to organize an international symposium at Princeton University titled “Abstraction Before the Age of Abstract Art.”

The symposium is part of Gertsman’s and Debiais’ two-year project on medieval abstraction, launched with the help of the French-American Cultural Foundation.

About the symposium

Focusing on the long and rich tradition of non-figurative art, this international symposium will explore the inception and transformation of abstraction at various historical pivot points between the advent of Christianity and the interrogation of epistemological queries in the later Middle Ages.

The symposium aims to introduce the concept of abstraction to the field of pre-modern art and redefine it as a visual structure that predicates the very nature of image-making. Speakers seek to:

  • Interrogate non-figurative forms in medieval material culture;
  • Contextualize these forms within the contemporaneous cultural and philosophical discourses;
  • Identify the common features that favor the emergence of abstraction specifically in the long Middle Ages; and
  • Determine how abstraction has been used to make visible what is beyond any kind of representation.

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation, French-American Cultural Foundation, Index of Medieval Art, Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University Department of Art History and Art and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales will co-sponsor the symposium.