Saturday, March 16, 2013

2012 Graduate Leah Thomas at UNC Chapel Hill

Since graduating from the University of Evansville in May 2012, I have moved to North Carolina, where I am completing my MA in Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While graduate school is often lonely, always stressful, and full of panic moments, it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. I have already had the opportunity to significantly broaden my knowledge base through coursework ranging in topic from Tudor portraiture to Andalusi Umayyad art to the art of the Russian Revolution. I have also been active in the organization and implementation of the Art Department’s Rand Lecture Series as part of my graduate assistantship. This has given me practical experience in event planning and allowed me to interact with several Medieval and Early Modern studies scholars.

In particular, the seminar on Tudor portraiture allowed me to explore my two primary interests: the museum field and sixteenth-century art. The course was predicated on a collaboration between UNC Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh, where a group of late Tudor and Jacobean portraits had recently been removed from storage for cleaning. Since the portraits had received little previous scholarly attention, each member of the seminar focused her research on a particular portrait for the duration of the semester. This research was supported by direct access to the portraits in the museum’s conservation lab and individual consultation with Dr. Tarnya Cooper, Chief Curator and Sixteenth-Century Curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, during her visit to the NCMA. At the end of the semester, each of us presented an abbreviated version of our research to the museum staff and docents.

Leah (third from right) after giving a presentation at the North Carolina Museum of Art last fall.
This summer, I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue to explore this portrait group as research assistant to Dr. Tania String, the professor who taught the seminar. I will spend a short time at the Yale Center for British Art, and then continue to London for about a month to utilize the archives of the National Portrait Gallery to develop a more specific understanding of the portrait group’s provenance, contributing artists, and sitters. This research will contribute to a future NCMA exhibition of the portraits, as well as the accompanying catalog publication. The rest of my summer will be spent formalizing my research, studying for my MA exams, and visiting my parents in Texas.

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