EUGENE, Ore. -- (March 9, 2009) -- Art history professor Andrew Schulz is off campus this year studying an overlooked period of Spanish history -- 1750 to 1820 -- when cultural and visual contributions of the Spain's Islamic past began to surface in the works of European artists, writers and politicians.
Schulz says he was drawn to the period when he inadvertently stumbled onto a lot of material almost nine years ago in Madrid while working on his book "Goya's Caprichos: Aesthetics, Perception, and the Body," which earned him the 2007 Eleanor Tufts Prize from the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies.
"I first became interested in the legacy of Islamic Spain quite by accident in the Spanish national library, when I came across a quite amazing collection of prints made in the 18th century documenting the Alhambra and the Great Mosque in Córboda," Schulz said. "In the course of researching that publication, which translates in English as 'The Arabian Antiquities of Spain,' I came to realize that there was much larger story that had never been told regarding 18th-century fascination with the Islamic past in Spain, a story that relates not only to art and architecture, but also to literature and language."
Schulz is in Los Angeles through June as a Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute. Last fall, he was a visiting scholar in Zamora, Mexico, at the Center for Historical Studies at the College of Michoacán. A large portion of Schulz's research leave is funded by a 2008-09 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which began in April 2008 and ends in March. Schulz was among 96 fellows chosen from over 1,250 applicants and funded to pursue advanced research that usually results in a major completed project.
Every year since 1985 the Getty Research Institute, operated under the umbrella of the J. Paul Getty Trust, has invited scholars, artists, and other cultural figures from around the world to work in residence on projects that bear upon its annual research theme. This year's theme is "Networks and Boundaries." Schulz is focusing on the historical construction of boundaries involving ‘Moorish'/Spanish, Muslim/Christian and East/West that in many ways, he says, governs 21st century conceptions of the arts and collective historical identity of the Iberian Peninsula.
"I am examining the ways in which these boundaries were policed, crossed and redrawn during the late 18th and early 19th centuries by a network of state-sponsored cultural practices that integrated the arts of al-Andalus into an emergent national tradition, while at the same time defining Spanish history in opposition to the Muslim past," he said.
Al-Andalus was the Arabic reference to the Iberian Peninsula governed by Arab Muslims during varying times between 711 and 1492.
In the end, his research leave will result in a book, "Al-Andalus in the Age of Enlightenment: Islamic Art and Culture in the Spanish Imagination." Schulz says the book will make an important contribution to the scholarly conversation on the legacy of al-Andalus. It will, he added, correct the perception that European Romantics rediscovered the art and culture al-Andalus after a long period of Spanish neglect.
"I call this formulation into question by excavating the profound Spanish interest in Islamic Spain that preceded broader European fascination with it," he said. "I will not only shed light on this understudied chapter in Spain's Muslim past, but also analyze its ideological importance for national identity formation. Eighteenth and early 19th century Spanish artists and writers found compelling ways to absorb the objects and monuments of Muslim Iberia -- and the artistic principles that govern them -- into the framework of an emerging national artistic and cultural tradition."
Two aspects of Schulz's research on al-Andalus were published last year.
In June, an article titled "Moors and the Bullfight: History and National Identity in Goya's Tauromaquia" appeared in The Art Bulletin. (Tauromaquia is the Spanish word for the art of the bullfight.) Francisco Goya's series of prints on bullfighting appeared in 1815-1816, providing "important insights into national identity formation in early-19th-century Spain," Schulz said.
"These prints give the Muslims of al-Andalus an unprecedented and historically unfounded role in the evolution of this quintessentially Spanish pastime," he said. "By equating national belonging with the development of cultural practices that transcend religious difference, the Tauromaquia absorbs the Islamic past into the fabric of Spanish history. In doing so, it marks a significant departure from the ideology of the Christian reconquest, which took on renewed significance following the Peninsular War with Napoleon Bonaparte's France."
Schulz has been commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Museum to write a book, "Goya and the Art of the Bullfight," which will feature a painting of the bullfight made by Goya late in his career and which is in the Getty collection.
Another essay, "The Porcelain of the Moors," which looks at a project pursued by King Charles III beginning in 1763 but never completed, appeared in December in the annual visual arts issue of the Hispanic Research Journal. "It examines one episode in the fascination with the Islamic past in the second half of the 18th century, one that intersects with a royal porcelain factory envisioned by the king," Schulz said.
While in Mexico, Schulz said, he also spent time studying the art and architecture of colonial Mexico, much of which coincided with the period he is examining in his book on the legacy of Islamic culture in Spain. The information he has gathered likely will be a future direction for his teaching and research.
"The most exciting thing about this year has been having the time and freedom to devote myself fully to my scholarly work, freed from the responsibilities of teaching and service," Schulz said in an email from Los Angeles. "On top of that, the resources at the Getty are truly phenomenal. It has arguably the best art history library in the world and incredible special collections holdings. For me, it the next-best thing to my being in Madrid in terms of available research materials."
Schulz returns to campus in the fall, when he will resume teaching and become head of the art history department.