Cynthia J. Mills F'11

Cynthia J. Mills
Independent Scholar
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Smithsonian Institution

ACLS Fellowship Program 2011
Independent Scholar
Art Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Beyond Grief: Art, Mourning, and Mystery in the Gilded Age

This interdisciplinary study examines figurative sculpture erected in US cemeteries at the end of the nineteenth century and how it functioned. It situates this new breed of high-style bronze sculpture in the context of sociocultural developments, such as the professionalization of deathways industries, changing landscape aesthetics, and attitudes about mourning, religious faith, management of emotions, and identity formation. It asks what options bereaved patrons had and what values and goals they shared with the cosmopolitan, foreign-trained sculptors commissioned to make their memorials. Finally, this project also looks at the way diverse audiences encountered these aestheticized monuments over the passing decades, when they sometimes responded with ridicule and doubt.