UA Art Historian Awarded Top Fellowship

Dr. Rachel Stephens at the Hermitage, standing before a portrait of Andrew Jackson by Ralph Earl, the subject of her new book.
Dr. Rachel Stephens at the Hermitage in Nashville, Tenn., standing before a portrait of Andrew Jackson painted by Ralph Earl, the subject of her new book.

Dr. Rachel Stephens, associate professor of American art at UA, has been appointed an Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The two-month, highly competitive fellowship is one of the top awards in the field of art history and supports research across the history, theory and criticism of the visual arts. The fellowship, which includes a generous stipend and housing in Washington, will take place this fall. During that time, Stephens will work to complete her book manuscript titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Concealment of Slavery in Antebellum American Art,” under contract with the University of Arkansas Press. Fewer than six Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellowships are awarded each year.

Stephens said, “I am so honored to have received a CASVA fellowship. It’s a storied program with wonderful opportunities to engage with international scholars from across the discipline. I look forward to my time in D.C.”

Dr. Stephens was also awarded a four-month fellowship for the spring of 2021 from Virginia Humanities. During that time, she will be in residence at the Library of Virginia in Richmond initiating research on her next book project, a study of Civil War-era artists in Virginia. The project was inspired by research she undertook on these painters for her current book project, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” which she recently published in Panorama. The essay, titled “‘Whatever is un-Virginian is Wrong!’: The Loyal Slave Trope in Civil War Richmond and the Origins of the Lost Cause,” is in the spring 2020 issue of Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art. Funding for Stephens’ research for this article was provided by the Virginia Historical Society and UA’s CARSCA grant from the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Stephens will be on sabbatical for the 2020-2021 academic year.

East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., which houses CASVA. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Stephens‘ research focuses on 19th-century American art and visual culture, Jacksonian-era portraiture and political prints, antebellum southern art, and race and representation. Her book, Selling Andrew Jackson: Ralph E. W. Earl and the Politics of Portraiture, explores the critical role of Earl and his dozens of portraits of Jackson within the circle and career of Old Hickory.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.