Alan Wallach, the College's Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and American Studies, has been invited to serve as the Robert Sterling Clark Distinguished Professor of Art History at Williams College's Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA, during the fall 2008 semester. Wallach will teach a seminar-style class on the Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American art movement established by northeastern landscape painters. The visiting professorship is considered one of the premier assignments in the field of art and art history.
Wallach has taught at William and Mary since 1989. Last year he was recognized by the College Art Association (CAA), which granted him its Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award. The organization called him a professor who has "revolutionized the teaching of American art and museum studies" and who has opened the field to "new areas of inquiry … ." He has developed his unique classroom style at the College, where his classes are in demand among undergraduate and graduate students, alike. Whether they are freshmen or others seeking advanced degrees, Wallach engages his students in research as he challenges them with what he calls "kidding."
"Kidding points to something more and less serious; that the classroom is a place for play as well as seriousness, and that in that spirit students can try out ideas," Wallach said. "Another way to put it is that we want to open the student's imagination. Art, of course, is all about the imagination; but it also can be an occasion for imaginative thinking."
Even as he dedicates himself to the classroom, Wallach continues to publish, having written on topics ranging from the Hudson River School to Norman Rockwell to museum ethics. His works include "Making a Picture of the View from Mount Holyoke" (1990), which the CAA calls "a paradigm-setting statement of methodology," and the oft-cited "The Museum of Modern Art as Late Capitalist Ritual" (Marxist Perspectives, 1978) and "The Universal Survey Museum " (Art History, 1980). Wallach's books include "Exhibiting Contradiction: Essays on the Art Museum in the United States" (U Mass Press, 1998), which frequently is used in courses on museum studies and museum history, and "Thomas Cole: Landscape into History" (Yale, 1994). Last year he co-authored a short book, "First Look: The Essential Guide to the Jersey City Museum" (Rutgers University Press, 2007), which addressed his interest in having art become accessible to additional publics.
Wallach also has been a frequent speaker, commentator and panel chair. He has presented papers at Columbia University, Harvard University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre, among numerous venues.