Figuring a World: William Bartram's Natural History


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


The drawings of artist-naturalist William Bartram (1739-1823) by turns charmed and vexed his colleagues. This dissertation takes seriously the strangeness of these works, seeing the compositions’ unusual details and flourishes as the artist’s attempt to convey his understanding of the act of picturing. Rather than serve as transparent windows onto the natural world, Bartram’s drawings function as palimpsests of the corporeal and conceptual, as spaces in which he interleaves embodied and abstract knowledge, world and representation. In so doing, Bartram tracks how subjective experience may be refigured as natural history.