Rachel Esner studied at Columbia University, City University of New York and the Universität Hamburg, Germany. She received her Ph.D. in 1994 with a dissertation entitled Art Knows no Fatherland: The Reception of German Art in France, 1878-1900. Working as a freelance art historian, she published a number of articles over the years, participated in international symposia, and in 2000-2001 was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre allemande d'histoire de l'art in Paris. In 2003 she joined the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam, Department of Art History, where she is currently Associate Professor (UD1), Program Director of the MA Programs in Art and Cultural Studies, and Chair of the MA Museumconservator. From May 2008 to September 2009 Dr. Esner was also Assistant Professor and program chair of the Master's in Photographic Studies, Leiden University.
Dr. Esner is a specialist in French art and photography of the late nineteenth century. Her current research project, The Image of the Artist in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction focuses on the emergence of the artist as a public figure and celebrity with the aid of nineteenth-century "new media" such as photography and the illustrated press. It explores the various images of the artist formed in the popular imagination by painters and sculptors themselves, their supporters and critics; the sociological and historical necessity of image-building at this crucial moment in the formation of (artistic) modernity; and the consequences of these processes for artists' self-understanding and identity, expressed in their creative works as well as in strategic uses of their newly spreading media image. The artist's studio plays a particularly important role within this research framework, and the last few years have seen the publication of a number of articles on this topic as well as an annotated anthology, co-edited with Sandra Kisters and Ann-Sophie Lehmann: Hiding Making-Showing Creation. The Studio from Turner to Tacita Dean (Amsterdam University Press 2013).
In June 2014, renowned film scholars and art historians joined together for the international conference The Mediatization of the Artist. The aim of this event was to investigate the presence of the visual artist in a variety of (popular) media from the nineteenth century to today. With the rise of notions of artistic autonomy and the simultaneous demise of old systems of patronage, artists increasingly found themselves confronted with the necessity of developing a public image. Simultaneously, new audiences for art discovered their fascination for the life and work of the artist. The rise of new media – the illustrated press, photography and film – meant that the needs of both parties could be easily satisfied with both words and images. This led to a transformation of the artist from a mere producer of works of art into a widely recognized celebrity. The mechanisms of this transformation and its consequences for the both the popular image and self-understanding of the artist were the focus of the papers, discussions and screenings that took place over two days at two spectacular locations in Amsterdam.
For more information and the program see the link below. A publication is currently in preparation.
Dr. Esner is a member of the editorial boards of Van Gogh Studies, Rijksmuseum Bulletin, Stedelijk Studies and Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft
Founding member and member of the steering committee. The European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art (ESNA) is a platform formed under the auspices of the Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History (Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis). ESNA was founded by a group of scholars, graduate students and museum professionals based in the Netherlands whose research focuses on European art of the long nineteenth century. ESNA’s aim is to provide a forum to promote the exchange of ideas in this field, to support and encourage graduate research, and to enhance networking opportunities for participants. ESNA seeks to contribute to, and foster debate on, nineteenth-century art through the organization of an annual symposium, workshops, excursions, the invitation of visiting speakers, and the co-ordination with other organizations and groups devoted to the study of the nineteenth century. Although originating in the Low Countries, ESNA aims to create a broad international network for the advancement of research into all aspects of nineteenth-century European art.
Rachel Esner teaches in the following BA courses:
The core curriculum of the MA program "Museumconservator" consists of two seminar-modules, Theorie en geschiedenis van het verzamelen en presenteren , and Museumproblematiek . For information please consult the UvA Studiegids and the site of the Graduate School for Humanities.
This seminar deals with the city of Paris as the capital of the
nineteenth-century art and architectural world. A place of incredible nnovation,
where, however - in the words of Walter Benjamin - the new always intermingled
with the old, Paris may be said to be a symbol for this crucial period in
cultural history: the crucible of what we now call "modernity". From the advent
of the Romantic architecture of Henri Labrouste to the Belle Époque Opéra of
Charles Garnier; from the conservative Salons of the Restoration to the
struggles of the burgeoning avant-garde, from the revolutionary élan of Courbet
to the religious fanaticism of the Symbolists, Paris and the art it gave rise to
was contradictory and paradoxical. As the center of enormous technical
innovation and urban transformation - The World's Fairs, Hausmannization, the
invention of the department store and the mass spectacle - the city was the
inventor of new ways of seeing and being.
Taking as its starting point a variety of crucial themes, the seminar looks at the city and the art and architecture it produced from diverse perspectives, providing insight into the most important works and artists (painters, sculptors, architects, engineers, designers) and an in-depth examination of their meaning in the wider historical and social context of France in the nineteenth century.
Kunstenaarsimago: Kunsenaars en kunstenaarschap verbeeld, 1820-1900 behandelt de verbeelding van kunstenaars en het kunstenaarschap gedurende de 19e eeuw. In een reeks thematische colleges met bijbehorende werkcolleges gaan we de vraag na hoe kunstenaars over zichzelf en hun beroep dachten in deze roerige periode in de (kunst)geschiedenis. Hoe vatten kunstenaars het kunstenaarschap op? Welke imago hebben ze voor zichzelf gecreëerd? Welke wordt hen toegedicht door anderen? Waarom was een (bepaald) imago van belang? En, niet minder belangrijk, hoe worden deze beelden vorm gegeven? Welke stijlfiguren kunnen we identificeren? In de module zullen allerlei genres en media aan bod komen, van zelfportretten en groepsportretten tot fotoreeksen en prentseries. De focus ligt op de Franse kunst omdat Frankrijk – en dan vooral Parijs – als bakermaat voor zowel de moderne kunst als het moderne kunstenaarschap kan worden gezien. Deze module biedt kennisverdieping op de colleges over de 19e eeuw gevolgd in de propedeuse (Inleiding, Parijs excursie). .
Het atelier van de kunstenaar is niet alleen een werkplek. Het heeft grote symbolische betekenis; rond het atelier zijn taalloze mythes zowel ontstaan als geproduceerd. Het atelier is dus smeltkroes van creativiteit en tegelijkertijd een probleem. Hoe kunstenaars het atelier afbeelden,welke relatie ze met hun ruimtes aangaan, welke mensen er toegelaten worden, hoe het atelier ingericht wordt, etc. kan ons veel vertellen over hoe ze hun kunstenaarschap opvatten en over het begrip kunstenaarschap in de moderne tijd. Zelfs het (blijkbare) verdwenen van het atelier in onze postmoderne tijdperk zegt iets over hoe kunstenaars vandaag de dag zich zelf en hun werk concipiëren. In deze werkgroep wordt het fenomeen "kunstenaarsatelier" van alle kanten belicht - in kunstwerken, in de literatuur, en in film en video.
The aim of the annual Van Gogh Museum Visiting Scholar in the History of Nineteenth-Century Art Seminaris to provide Master's students with the opportunity to study a single yet wide-ranging subject in nineteenth-century art through an intensive one-week workshop taught by a leading scholar in the field and supported by the Van Gogh Museum. The seminar will introduce students to important issues in the study of nineteenth-century art and provide an impulse for further research. Its aim is to encourage interest in various aspects of the discipline, and to provide students not only with factual information, but more importantly with new methodological and theoretical perspectives on this important period in the history of art.
Since 2013, the seminar may followed as a tutorial for 6 EC within the various MA programs. For more information see the UvA Studiegids or contact Dr. Rachel Esner (email@example.com)
The artist, at least according to Honoré de Balzac, is at work when he seems to be at rest; his labor is not labor but repose; it is above all conceptual, and not something done with the hand. This observation provides a model for understanding modern artists and their relationship to their place of work - the studio - what they do there, and (above all) their representations of it. Hiding Making – Showing Creation investigates the complex visual strategies artists have developed in such images to foreground certain aspects of creation while carefully hiding others from view: although often appearing to reveal all in their depictions, artists are never entirely open about their practice, and habitually hide their manual labor in order to present an image of almost magical creative genius. Taking a transhistorical, transnational and multi-medial perspective, the volume seeks to addresses possible continuities in artists’ own understanding of their working spaces from the nineteenth century to today, and to sketch the contours of what the editors view as the emerging field of studio studies.
The book is the result of the international two-day conference Hiding Making – Showing Creation, which took place in January 2011 in collaboration with Teylers Museum in Haarlem and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
International research project, book publication, and symposium, in cooperation with Dr. Margriet Schavemaker (Stedelijk Museum), Hendrik Folkerts (Stedelijk Museum) and Shailloh Philips.
The project was funded by, among others, the Mondriaan Foundation, Prince Bernhard Cultuurfonds, and SNS Reaalfonds.
It resulted in a book publication (Amsterdam University Press), a two-day international conference (Visual Culture and National Identity, June 2010), several book presentations in the Netherlands (Spui25) and abroad (Rome, KNIR), and a radio interview (see link below)