Unanticipated discoveries can lead to new paths in life. They have for Georgia Cowart, chair of Case Western Reserve University's department of music, who will begin her 2007-08 sabbatical on September 1 as the Sylvan C. Coleman and Pamela Coleman Memorial Art History Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
The year at the Metropolitan Museum will give her an opportunity to conduct research that evolved from her work on an encoded social and political discourse linking the music of the French opera to 18th-century artist Jean-Antoine Watteau's well known painting, The Pilgrimage to Cythera.
Almost a decade ago, Cowart made the link during a break at the Louvre from her research in the library of the Garnier Palace, the former site of the Paris Opéra. Her further investigations were published in the flagship journals of the Journal of the American Musicological Society and the Art Bulletin, and earned her the James L. Clifford Prize of the American Society for 18th-Century Studies for the best article on an 18th-century topic published that year.
As a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Museum, Cowart will be under the supervision of Everett Fahy, the John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the department of European paintings.
Because her education is in music, Cowart said, "I have never had any formal art history training, other than an undergraduate course. It will mean a lot to me, and for my historical research, to work with curators at the Met."
In addition to her research, Cowart will have the opportunity to assist with exhibitions at the Met. She also hopes to contribute to new exhibitions bringing together 18th-century music and painting. These will draw on the resources of the European Paintings collection as well as the department of Musical Instruments.
When looking at the paintings with musical settings, Cowart stated, "I don't think many people have asked the questions of what that music and dance would have been like, or what social and political implications the performing arts would have brought to painting in this period."
She hopes to show them.
Cowart has recently completed a book, The Triumph of Pleasure:
Louis XIV and the Festive Arts, which will be published in 2008 by the University of Chicago Press. She is one of a number of Case music faculty engaged in interdisciplinary methodologies.
Mary Davis, the author of the new book Classic Chic: Music, Fashion, and Modernism (University of California Press), will have an article on fashion and music in the Met's catalog of the upcoming Paul Poiret exhibition. Daniel Goldmark, the author of Tunes for 'Toons (University of California Press), has written extensively on music and film. Other members of the department have also achieved widespread publicity for bringing music together with other fields: Ross Duffin for music in Shakespeare, and David Rothenburg for music and medieval liturgy.
"I am grateful to my colleagues, both in the department and in the college, for the stimulating interdisciplinary dialogue that leads to these kinds of discoveries," Cowart said.
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