Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference

Cynthia Roman, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale and Patricia Mainardi, The Graduate Center - City University of New York 

In the modern era, landscape painting has been largely defined by Impressionism, favoring atmospheric visuality over fidelity to form. And yet this was not always the case. This session seeks to explore the parallel incentive, topographical drawing, in all its manifestations. We define topography as a pictorial description of a specific place in a wide array of forms with a diversity of functions and patrons or audiences. These might include travelers’ sketchbooks, architectural renderings, mapmaking, estate portraits, botanical illustration, etc. We are interested in the work of professional and amateur artists, scientists, architects, and engineers. Proposals could focus on scientific knowledge of space (detail/geology/geography); on making and learning strategies; on the functions of topographical projects (patron, creator, or audience expectations); methods of observing, recording, or conveying the desired “information” about the place (choices of media, format, style, color, technique).

Building on recent scholarly attention given to the role and history of topographical views, most notably the British Library’s project Picturing Place and broadening the ongoing Yale University-wide project on topography sponsored by the Lewis Walpole Library, we seek to cast as wide a net as possible, not limited either geographically or chronologically. We have designed this session as an open call for proposals. Preference will be given to new participants because we hope that this session will follow the long-standing CAA tradition of identifying and making connections among scholars whom we do not yet know but who share our interests.