In her work as an art historian, West Virginia University professor Janet Snyder studies the smallest nuances of Gothic sculpture. That attention to detail is reflected in her scholarship, which is admired by her peers for its originality and quality, revolutionizing ideas about methods of creation.
In recognition of her achievements as a scholar and educator, and as an investment in work yet to come, she has been named the J. Bernard Schultz Endowed Professor in Art in the School of Art and Design in WVU’s College of Creative Arts.
“Janet Snyder is a household name in the medieval world of art history,” said Alison Helm, director of the School of Art and Design. “She has opened up a whole new world of insight into the traditions, behaviors and politics articulated in mid-twelfth century column figures in cathedral architecture.”
“My fascination with mid-twelfth-century sculpture and architecture is directly linked to my first-person experience of monuments in the 1989 National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar, ‘Gothic in the Ile-de-France,’” Snyder said. “What began in 1989 with a simple question of looking has evolved into the investigation of all aspects of the appearance, significance, and materials of medieval sculpture.”
Snyder’s book, “Early Gothic Column-Figure Sculpture in France: Appearance, Materials, and Significance” (Ashgate 2011) examines the representation of textiles and clothing in northern French stone sculpture and the production of this sculpture.
William W. Clark, professor of art history at Queens College, describes the book as “a major opus.”
“The analysis of dress, down to the fine details of braids, knots, buckles and various applied decoration, types of decorative sewing, as well as more obvious details such as sleeve type, size and length provide an enormous base of information that is then precisely analyzed for indicators of social levels and status,” Clark said.
“These are significant art historical analyses, most of which have never before been done for statue columns,” Clark added.
Snyder is also co-editor of the book “Blanche Lazzell: The Life and Work of an American Modernist” (WVU Press, 2004) and the book “Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress: Objects, Texts, Images” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).
She has presented papers at the British Museum, the International Congress for Medieval Art, the International Medieval Congress at Leeds, and meetings of the Southeastern College Art Conference, the Medieval Academy, the College Art Association and the Midwest Art History Society.
“I am very proud of Dr. Snyder’s accomplishments,” said Helm. “We look forward to her continued research, which will open new doors of understanding to the past and its significance today.”
Snyder is eager to share the “question of looking” with students. She takes art history classes to regional museums, and has built the practice of close observation into the art history curriculum at WVU.
Her plans for the three-year professorship include research travel to northern Italy and Spain, collaborative research meetings at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond and Duke University, and museum research in New York City. She will also invite scholars to speak at WVU.
The first of those will be Roger Stalley, professor emeritus of Trinity College, Dublin, and the author of “Early Medieval Architecture” (Oxford University Press, 1999). Stalley will speak on “Art and Mystery in ‘The Book of Kells’” in early October.
In 2004, Alison and Patrick Deem of Bridgeport, W.Va., established the J. Bernard Schultz Endowed Professorship in Art, in honor of former WVU College of Creative Arts Dean Bernie Schultz.
The professorship was created in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2016.
CONTACT: David Welsh, WVU College of Creative Arts
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.