Art History Dickson Lecture will focus on the significance of complexion in art

March 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 2019 Dickson Lecture, presented by Esther Wipfler, researcher at Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, Germany, will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, in 112 Borland Building on Penn State's University Park campus.

In the lecture, titled "Complexion and Significance — The Human Image in Antique and Medieval Panel Paintings in the Mediterranean," Wipfler will discuss research that scrutinized common notions about the representation of human complexion over a roughly 1,000-year period, from Fayyum mummy portraits to Byzantine icons, and Medieval Italian panel paintings to Medieval painting guides. Which techniques were chosen in order to achieve certain effects at particular times? How was traditional knowledge from antiquity adapted? Is there any correlation between technique and either the function or the original location of a painting? How are social changes and ideological shifts reflected?

About the Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History

The annual Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History brings leading scholars in art history to Penn State to share their latest research and meet with students.

Established in 2011, the lecture series is made possible by an endowment created by the late Mary Neilly of State College. Mrs. Neilly graduated from Penn State in 1947 with a degree in journalism. Two years later, when she was managing editor for the Penn State Alumni Association, she took an art history course from Harold E. Dickson (1900-87). She never forgot this course and its extraordinary professor. By creating an endowed lectureship in art history for visiting scholars she established a worthy memorial to an exceptional teacher and scholar.

Dickson was one of the founders of the department. He graduated from Penn State College in 1922 with a degree in architectural engineering, and earned a master of arts and doctorate in fine arts from Harvard University. While he was pursuing his graduate degrees at Harvard, he also was teaching at Penn State, beginning in 1923 with the title of “instructor of watercolor.” The Department of Art History began at Penn State as a one-credit “Art Appreciation” course, which developed into a very popular single course, and eventually a department. Dickson was a highly respected and productive scholar in the field of American art and architecture. He played an instrumental role in finding the funding for and selecting Henry Varnum Poor to paint the land-grant frescoes in Old Main.

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Last Updated March 28, 2019