William Birch and the Complexities of American Visual Culture
A Symposium Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Visual Culture Program at the Library Company of Philadelphia
Library Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, October 5, 2018
Keynote Address: Wendy Bellion, University of Delaware
Then and Now: How William Birch Matters in 2018
This keynote will offer a reflection on the continuing significance of the work of William Birch, particularly his “Views of Philadelphia.” The talk will explore issues of his immigration, his technical accomplishments, and the ways he represented the city.
Wendy Bellion is Professor of Art History and Sewell Biggs Chair of American Art at the University of Delaware. In 2017-18, she is also Acting Director of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. Professor Bellion holds a PhD and MA from Northwestern University and a BA from Wesleyan University. She has taught at Rutgers and the College of William and Mary, and she has served as Terra Visiting Professor at the University of Paris. Professor Bellion’s scholarship is interdisciplinary in approach, focusing on the early United States and exploring the cultural geographies of the British Atlantic world and early modern Americas. Her book Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America (2011), which was awarded the 2014 Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Outstanding Scholarship by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, examines the post-Revolutionary exhibition of trompe l’oeil paintings and optical illusions in Philadelphia. In addition to several articles on Charles Willson Peale and other early American artists, she is co-editor (with Mónica Domínguez Torres) of Objects in Motion: Art and Material Culture across Colonial North America (2011), a special issue of the journal Winterthur Portfolio. A forthcoming book on iconoclasm in New York City explores the power of material destruction in American creation stories from the late 18th century to the present.