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 and coordinator of the dual MA program Curating Art and Cultures.
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 two annotated anthologies, Hiding Making-Showing Creation. The Studio from Turner to Tacita Dean (Amsterdam University Press 2013) and The Mediatization of the Artist (Palgrave 2017).
Dr. Esner is a member of the editorial boards of Rijksmuseum Bulletin and Stedelijk Studies
Founding member and chair. 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.
ESNA became a foundation in 2018 and has since partnered with the RKD (Netherlands Institute of Art History).
Rachel Esner teaches in the following courses:
She also regularly offers BA and MA elective seminars on 19th-century art, as well as on museums, exhibitions, collecting and curating.
Curating Art and Cultures is a unique, professional Master's designed to train the curators of the future. The programme is offered jointly by the UvA, the VU University and leading museums in the Netherlands.
Taking place in both the lecture hall and the exhibition space, the Dual Master’s in Curating Art and Cultures responds to the growing demand for academically-grounded curatorial professionals with excellent (inter)disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds. The programme teaches you to engage with crucial theoretical concepts and contemporary issues regarding the collection and display of art objects and cultural artefacts. It also encourages you to deepen your disciplinary knowledge and develop your research skills.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This book offers trans-historical and trans-national perspectives on the image of “the artist” as a public figure in the popular discourse and imagination. Since the rise of notions of artistic autonomy and the simultaneous demise of old systems of patronage from the late eighteenth century onwards, artists have increasingly found themselves confronted with the necessity of developing a public persona. In the same period, new audiences for art discovered their fascination for the life and work of the artist. The rise of new media such as the illustrated press, photography and film meant that the needs of both parties could easily be satisfied in both words and images. Thanks to these “new” media, the artist was transformed from a simple producer of works of art into a public figure. The aim of this volume is to reflect on this transformative process, and to study the specific role of the media themselves. Which visual media were deployed, to what effect, and with what kind of audiences in mind? How did the artist, critic, photographer and filmmaker interact in the creation of these representations of the artist’s image?
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)