W&M professor wins prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship

Susan Verdi Webster, the Jane Williams Mahoney Professor of Art History and American Studies at the College of William &Susan V. Webster (Photo: Hernán L. Navarrete) Mary, has been awarded the 2011 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Fine Arts Research.

Webster’s accolade is one of just two awards given this year in the area of fine arts research.  In total, 180 fellowships were awarded to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientist selected from almost 3,000 applicants from the U.S. and Canada.

Guggenheim awards are a family tradition for the Webster’s. Susan’s father, the late Grady L. Webster, received a 1964 Guggenheim Fellowship in Plant Sciences while teaching at Purdue University.  According to the Guggenheim Foundation, only two other father-daughter tandems have won this prestigious award.

“This is splendid news for Susan Verdi Webster and William & Mary,” said President Taylor Reveley. “Guggenheim fellowships go to the most promising scholars, artists and scientists in the world. The fact that Susan and her late father both received Guggenheims – one of only two such father-daughter constellations of which we’re aware in the history of Guggenheims – is remarkable. We are very proud of Professor Webster."

Webster will continue her research and writing titled, “The conquest of European architecture: Andean masters and the construction of colonial Quito.” She is a leading scholar in the art of post-colonial Latin America, focusing primarily the indigenous artists, builders and artisans who created Quito, Ecuador.  A former Fulbright Fellow, Webster is regarded internationally as an expert in confraternities—pious groups of laypersons—and their art patronage in Spain and Latin America.   She is the author of “Arquitectura y empresa en el Quito colonial: José Jaime Ortiz, alarife mayor (2002),” and “Art and ritual in Golden-Age Spain: Sevillian confraternities and the processional sculpture of Holy Week” (1998).

Webster is the sixth William & Mary professor of receive the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.  Former recipients are Professors Sean Keilen (English, 2008); Nikos Chrisochoides (Computer Science, 2007); Barbara King (Anthropology, 2002); Talbot Taylor (English, 1994); and James Axtell (History, 1981).

Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted nearly $290 million in Fellowships to more than 17,000 individuals.  Time and again, the Foundation’s choice of Fellows has proved prescient: thousands of celebrated alumni and scores of Nobel, Pulitzer, and other prizewinners grace its rolls.