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Circulation, exchange and race in Ralph Clarkson's 'Nouvart Dzeron, a daughter of Armenia'

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Title: Circulation, exchange and race in Ralph Clarkson's 'Nouvart Dzeron, a daughter of Armenia'
Author(s): Weber, Amy L.
Advisor(s): Greenhill, Jennifer A.
Department / Program: Art & Design
Discipline: Art History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.A.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): American Art History Ralph Elmer Clarkson Armenian-Americans Chicago
Abstract: Ralph Clarkson, a prominent Chicago portrait painter, created his best known work, the painting 'Nouvart Dzeron,' in 1912. The painting depicts a full-length portrait of a young woman dressed in traditional Armenian dress. Between 1912 and the 1920s, the title of the painting would change from 'Nouvart Dzeron' to 'A Daughter of Armenia' to eventually a combination of the two titles: 'Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia.' This changing title reveals how socio-political conceptions altered how people read the seemingly simple composition of a model posed against a blank background. This painting acts as a site of exploration for the changing conceptions of whiteness and commodification of ethnicity during a fifteen years span in the beginning of the twentieth century. Between 1912 and 1915, Clarkson used this painting to depict a generic idea of the Orient in order to bolster his own status as a fine artist. With the Armenian genocide of 1915, the painting’s subject moved into the realm of symbolism and ceased to be just a commodity of Clarkson’s to further his career. Instead, the more valuable commodity became Dzeron’s specific ethnicity: Armenian. And finally, in the mid-1920s, the two titles were combined as public opinion turned against the Armenian cause and the painting’s memorializing effect lessened.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Amy L. Weber
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
Date Deposited: 2011-05

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