The award is given annually to individuals who are noted for their influence as scholars and their dedicated work with students.
Wallach is the first professor from William and Mary to receive this award in its 29-year history. He shares it this year with Wanda Corn, the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor of Art History at Stanford University. The award will be conferred on the two professors at the CAA's annual meeting in New York this month.
When notified of his winning the honor, Wallach said he felt as if he had hit the jackpot. "There is no award, no form of recognition, I would rather have," he said.
In the CAA press release announcing the award, Wallach is cited for the far-reaching significance of his publications, including "The Museum of Modern Art as Late Capitalist Ritual," "The Universal Survey Museum" and "Making a Picture of the View from Mount Holyoke." Wallach was also co-editor with William Truettner of the exhibition catalog Thomas Cole: Landscape into History (Yale University Press, 1994) for which he wrote the principal essay, and he is the author of "Exhibiting Contradiction: Essays on the Art Museum in the United States" (University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). He was described, along with Corn, as belonging to "what is only the second generation of academically-trained Americanists," and he was credited with inspiring "the next and subsequent generations."
"My aim has always been to put history back into the history of art - a field that has at times tended to consider works of art apart from their historical contexts," Wallach said.
Beyond his scholarly achievements, the award also cites Wallach for his teaching abilities.
"Alan Wallach's teaching, like his person, is eloquent and passionate, rigorous and critical," the release states. "In the classroom, his approach says, 'Let me show you something fascinating,' and his material and manner fulfills the promise."
"I am not interested in students memorizing dozens or hundreds of works of art but in learning to think critically about the history of art through close scrutiny of a limited number of works. Dialogue is essential," said Wallach. "Although the work of art may be a given, we all see differently. Sharing with each other what we see and know, we begin to learn."
Wallach received his undergraduate degree from Columbia College, and his master's and doctorate degrees from Columbia University. He began working at William and Mary in 1989.
The CAA is a member of the American Council of Learned Societies and is the professional organization for art historians and artists, with 13,000 individual and 2,000 institutional members.
Source: W&M Press Release, February 6, 2007. Photo by Phyllis Rosenzweig.