From Willamette to Harvard's doctoral program in Art History

I graduated from Willamette University in 2006 with a major in art history and am currently a PhD student at Harvard University studying colonial Latin American art. I am grateful for the wisdom, mentorship, and friendship I received (and continue to receive) from the art history faculty at Willamette. I want to give special thanks to Roger Hull, Ann Nicgorski, Beth Hudson, and Jill and Kevin Greenwood.

Art history was entirely off the radar when I arrived to Willamette eager to pursue my interests in music and athletics. I took Roger Hull’s Renaissance survey course the fall of my freshman year at the behest of my alumna mother (that the course fulfilled two general education requirements did not hurt either). I was neither the first nor the last to be seduced by Professor Hull’s particular blend of vibrant imagery, climatic storytelling, and dry wit that only served to enhance the innately provocative quality of early-modern images. As it turned out, my now decade-long romance with art history was an easy spark. My art-historical curiosity motivated my travels to Chicago and Mexico during my junior year and to Florence the following summer with Roger and several members of the wider Willamette community. My senior thesis sought to identify local sources for Titian’s monumental Assumption of the Virgin (1516-1518) in the Frari church in Venice.

Graduate Work at the University of Oregon and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice, Italy

Upon graduation, I traveled sixty miles down I5 to continue my studies in the art history masters program at the University of Oregon. I continued my exploration of Venetian Renaissance art, culminating in a master thesis that addressed the mystical and reformative elements espoused in Tintoretto’s four-painting Passion cycle in the confraternity building of San Rocco- a thesis whose beginnings are to be found in the aforementioned Willamette trip to Italy. I returned to Venice following the completion of my Masters to work at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

Yet, the impact of the Willamette abroad experience on my studies extended beyond the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to the Americas, as the direction of my research shifted to colonial Mexico upon entering a doctoral program. I am entering my fourth year at Harvard University and am embarking on a dissertation project exploring the proliferation of apocalyptic mural cycles in late sixteenth-century Mexico in relationship to an evolving Spanish imperial project.

I will remain forever appreciative of the students and faculty of the Willamette art history department who have done tremendous work in fostering an international community of current students and alumni.

As we all know better than most, art history remains a lifelong interest and pursuit regardless of one’s post graduation plans, and our inevitable return to lessons learned at Willamette speaks to the program’s strength and commitment to its students.

— Read McFaddin, Fall 2013

Read McFaddin

Read McFaddin, 2013.

"Our inevitable return to lessons learned at Willamette speaks to the program’s strength and commitment to its students."

Honors and Awards

  • Recipient of Willamette University Department of Art History Honors

Willamette University

Art History

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