Merel van Tilburg - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Merel van Tilburg

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Dr Merel van Tilburg

Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow

At The Courtauld Institute of Art, Dr. Merel van Tilburg is working on a research project entitled “Modernism and the ‘Carpet Paradigm’: A historiography and iconology of modern textile works of art, c. 1870-c.1980.” Currently funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, this project investigates the relationships between modern art and textiles in two ways. First, a historiographical part focuses on modernist ideological discourses – explicit and implicit – pertaining to questions of gender, politics, and geopolitics, and the ways in which these have shaped historic textile theories. Second, “Modernism and the ‘Carpet Paradigm’” comprises an iconology of a range of textile works of art that have been overlooked in modernist art history writing despite the fact that they have played a significant role in an intermedial and transregional history of modern art. Case studies include western colonialist textile art in Belgium and France around 1900; embroideries by Jugendstil sculptor Herman Obrist; Dada embroideries and textile collage; Senegalese modernist tapestries made in Thiès in the 1960s and 1970s; and the reception history of the international “Fiber Art” movement during those same years.

Merel holds an MA in Art History from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and a PhD from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. She has lectured at both of these universities and has been a guest lecturer at various art schools. Merel’s PhD research [Staging the Symbol. The Nabis, Theatre Decoration, and the Total Work of Art, 2013] focuses on theatre designs by painters of the Nabi group for Symbolist theatre performances in Paris during the fin de siècle. More generally, this study aims to shed light on the cross-fertilisation between Symbolist theatre and painting in the early work of the Nabis, both in theory and in practice.

Merel is also an art critic and regularly participates in artist’s publications, both as a writer and as an editor. She is a scientific counsellor for the exhibition Nightfall / Le retour des ténèbres which will open at the Musée Rath in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2016.

Research interests

  • Symbolism
  • intermediality
  • history of ideas
  • textile art
  • modernism
  • nineteenth-century art

Recent publications

Essays, articles and reviews

  • ‘Karl Moser und die “moderne” Kunst um 1914. Das Programm zur Dekoration der Universität Zürich, das Gesamtkunstwerk und die Anfänge von Dada,’ in Martino Stierli, ed., 1914: Kunst zwischen den Jahrhunderten, Basel, Schwabe, 2016 (in press)
  • ‘The Figure in/on the Carpet: Félix Vallotton and Decorative Narrativity,’ Konsthistorisk Tidskrift / Journal of Art History, Vol. 83, No 3, 2014
  • Review of Juliane Rebentisch, Aesthetics of Installation Art (Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2013),, September 2014 []
  • ‘Kitchen Ideologies,’ in Nicola Müllerschön and Christoph Tannert, ed., Prajakta Potnis: Store in a Cool and Dry Place [exhibition catalogue], Berlin, Kettler, 2014
  • Review of Autour du Chat Noir. Arts et plaisirs à Montmartre, 1885-1910 [exhibition catalogue, Philippe Dennis Cate, ed., Paris, 2013] Sehepunkte. Rezensionsjournal für die Geschichtswissenschaften, November 2013 []
  • ‘Not Just a Pretty Pattern,’ TATE Etc Magazine, issue 26, Autumn 2012
  • ‘Les années nabies de Pierre Bonnard: lignes et intimités,’ Les Lettres et les arts. Cahiers suisses de critique littéraire et artistique, No 11, January-March 2012
  • ‘Rethinking the Carpet Paradigm: Critical Footnotes to a Theory of Flatness,’ in Marco Costantini and Tristan Weddigen, ed., Meta-textile. Identity and History of a Contemporary Art Medium. Berlin, Edition Imorde, 2011
  • ‘”Des horizons infinis dans le cercle restreint d’intérieur”: Stimmung in Edouard Vuillard’s Decorative Paintings,’ in Kerstin Thomas, ed., Stimmung als ästhetische Kategorie und künstlerische Praxis. Berlin, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2010
  • ‘Traveling Painting,’ in Wouter Davidts, ed., Crack – Koen van den Broek. Amsterdam, Valiz, 2010
  • ‘Women, Wallpaper, and Politics,’ in Marco Costantini, ed., Face au mur: papier peints contemporains, [exhibition catalogue], Lausanne, Mudac, 2010

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