University of Rochester

Janet Wolff Chosen for Humanities Fellowship at Cornell

June 16, 1999

Art history professor Janet Wolff will research modernism in the visual arts during a year's fellowship recently awarded by the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.

Wolff, the director of the University of Rochester's doctoral program in Visual and Cultural Studies, will concentrate on the subject of painting and modernity in England and the United States from 1900 to 1930. She will continue her work on how aesthetic styles emerge and become dominant in a culture.

"I am interested in the sociological aspects of the generally accepted stories of art," Wolff says of her research. "What kind of painting is the painting of modern life? Why is Cubism or Futurism considered more appropriate than a realist painting? Realist art has been less highly valued than modernism in the art world in the 20th century. Why is that?"

During her fellowship, Wolff also plans to study the 1920s artistic circle known as the Whitney Studio Club in New York City. She will also be looking at the work and life of Kathleen McEnery (1885-1971), a realist painter who lived and worked in New York, and who married into the Rochester Cunningham family and continued to paint and exhibit after she moved to Rochester in 1914.

The mission of the Society for the Humanities, which was established in 1966, is to support research and encourage imaginative teaching in the humanities. Nine scholars, including Wolff, have been chosen as fellows for the 1999-2000 academic year as well as six Cornell Faculty Fellows and five Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows.