Tyler School of Art
2012 to 2013
Dissertation Research Fellow
The Opulent City and the Sylvan State: Art and Environmental Embodiment in Early National Philadelphia
Abstract: The urban environment of Philadelphia changed rapidly after the Revolutionary War. As a result of city’s dramatic expansion and development, serious environmental and economic problems began to plague the city, including deforestation, outbreaks of yellow fever, and pollution of air and water. My dissertation considers how artists and architects visualized, comprehended, and reformed Philadelphia’s rapidly changing urban ecology during the early national period. I argue that for Charles Willson Peale, William Rush, Benjamin Latrobe, and others, the human body served as a useful metaphor in this context, not only for understanding and representing natural processes but also for framing aesthetic perception of the city’s environment. I specifically examine the artistic and architectural implications of corporeality by exploring the ways in which it enabled Philadelphians to understand and reimagine their environment, its domestication, transformation, preservation, and exploitation. Read Laura's report on her PACHS-sponsored research here.