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Gülru Çakmak

Associate Professor | Nineteenth-Century European Art

(413) 545-3505

South College W311

Ph.D., Johns Hopkins, 2010

Gülru Çakmak is an Assistant Professor of Nineteenth-Century European Art. She received her PhD at Johns Hopkins University in 2010 with her dissertation entitled Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Innovative Years (1851-1859), for which she was awarded a Distinction. Prior to receiving her doctorate, she received her MPhil degree at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (Thesis title: “Subversive Ambiguities: Disruptions, Self-Representation, and the Role of the Beholder in Paul Cézanne’s Les Grandes Baigneuses (V.721)”), an MA degree with Distinction in Gender Studies at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary (Thesis title: “Aesthetics of Subversion: The Uncanny and the Grotesque in Aubrey Beardsley, Hannah Wilke, Mary Duffy, Louise Bourgeois, İnci Eviner”), and an MFA degree at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey (Thesis title: “The Body Unmasked: The Freudian Uncanny and Kuzgun Acar’s Theatre Masks”). In a highly selective nationwide competition in 2011, Dr. Çakmak was designated a New Faculty Fellow by the American Council of Learned Societies. 

At present, she is at work on a book on Gérôme and the crisis of history painting in France in the 1850s. Her book addresses a turning point in French art in the middle of the nineteenth century when traditional history painting lost its status as a compelling mode of representation. Was history painting even feasible in modern times, in a period that witnessed an increasing demand for empirical observation in art, and an emergent modern epistemology that posited the past as foundational and yet inaccessible to the physically and historically specific individual? In a group of works in the 1850s, Gérôme charted a new roadmap for the art of painting in response to the modern sensibility of history.

Dr. Çakmak’s current research interests as reflected in her recent publications differ from her book topic in significant ways. The first line of investigation is to understand the transformation of conditions of spectatorship in the first half of the nineteenth century under the influence of emerging technologies of light-based sequential vision, such as panorama, diorama, and the magic lantern, and the impact of this transformation on easel painting. In a tangent to this, she examines how the theoretical principles underlying nineteenth-century panoramic apparatus have continued to inform modern and contemporary visual practices. A second line of investigation is the impact of mid- to late nineteenth-century scientific, medical, and anthropological debates on the visual arts. Her third topic of research is the modernization of sculptural viewing experience in Europe from the late eighteenth century onwards. Most recently, following a Research Fellowship at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds in England, she co-curated Polychromies: Surface, Light and Colour at Leeds Art Gallery, an exhibition that explored color in sculpture from the late eighteenth century until the present, including works by Antonio Canova, Auguste Rodin, Alfred Gilbert, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Naum Gabo, Marcel Duchamp, Elisabeth Frink, Helen Chadwick, and David Batchelor.

Dr. Çakmak’s teaching emphasizes lines of continuity between nineteenth-century visual modernities and contemporary discourses. Her courses prioritize the encounter with the object, and integrate museum components that develop close looking. To this end, she regularly collaborates with the University Museum of Contemporary Art and other area museums in order to foster student scholarship both on undergraduate and graduate level. She has been implementing digital technology in the classroom as a pedagogical tool in order to foster student scholarship and cultivate key professionalization skills. In the Spring of 2012, she developed a web-based digital exhibition project as a requirement for an upper-level undergraduate course with a graduate component, Art-Hist 381/671 Great Themes: Emulation and Repetition in Nineteenth-Century Art in collaboration with the University Museum of Contemporary Art, which she repeated in the Spring of 2013, this time cooperating with the Image Collection Library. By writing research papers for an online exhibition as part of a course curriculum, her students not only gained experience in scholarly research and curatorial work geared toward a digital publication, but also employed the knowledge and skills they acquired in the class to practical ends as they reflected on how to address a general audience. In Fall 2011, her students in her European Art 1780-1880 wrote critical essays in conjunction with an exhibition by contemporary Korean artist Kimsooja at the University Museum of Contemporary Art addressing the ongoing influence of nineteenth-century artistic issues on contemporary art practices.

Research Areas

European Art 



In progress

  • Jean-Léon Gérôme and the Crisis of History Painting in the 1850s (book)
  • “Ontogeny, Phylogeny, and the Mystery of Love According to Aubrey Beardsley” (article)
  • “‘Cast into the Fiery Owen’: The Metaphysics of Lost Wax in Alfred Gilbert’s Sam Wilson Chimneypiece” (article)
  • “Repetition and Delacroix’s Pursuit of Tragic Image: The Case of Medea” (article)
  • Book review. Peter Cooke, Gustave Moreau: History Painting, Spirituality, and Symbolism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).


  • “Gérôme, Rodin, and Sculpture’s Interior,” Nonsite: Special Issue on Nineteenth-Century French Art (Alsdorf, Bridget, ed.). (peer-reviewed online academic journal) (Forthcoming).
  • “‘For the Strong-Minded Alone’: Evolution, Female Atavism, and Degeneration in Aubrey Beardsley’s Salomé,Decadence, Degeneration and the End: Studies in the European Fin de Siècle (Härmänmaa, Marja, and Christopher Nissen, eds.). Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.
  • “Victor Burgin’s A Place to Read, and the Panoramic Subject of the Bosphorus,” Projective (Campany, David ed.). Geneva: Éditions de Mamco (Musée d’art moderne et contemporain), 2014. (Publication in English and French)
  • “The Panoramic Studium in Nineteenth-Century History Painting: Paul Delaroche and Jean-Léon Gérôme,” Mobility and Fantasy in Visual Culture (Johnson, Lewis Keir, ed.). New York: Routledge, 2014.
  • “The Salon of 1859 and Caesar: The Limits of Painting,” Reconsidering Gérôme (Morton, Mary and Scott Allan, eds.). Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications, 2010.
  • “‘Conveying the Drama As It Exists’: Osman Hamdi’s Zeïbek At Watch (1867) and Nineteenth-Century French Painting,” Archaeologists and Travelers in Ottoman Lands (Ousterhout, Robert and Renata Holod, eds.) (Online publication accompanying the exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, and Pera Museum, Istanbul, 2010. Catalogue website:
  • “Resistance or Compliance? The Problem of Orientalism in Osman Hamdi’s Paintings,” Post Colonial Politics of Identity. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi Press, 2010.
  • “Rashid Bin Khalifa and the Dialectics of Convex Painting,” A Convex Manifesto. Embracing Life: The Paintings of Rashid Bin Khalifa (Vauclair, David, ed.). Paris: Éditions Le Livre d'Art, 2009. (Publication in English, French and German)
  • “Batı'da Akademik Feminizmin Mücadele Arayışları (The Struggles of Academic Feminism in the West),” Amargi Feminist Teori ve Politika (Winter 2006). Istanbul, Turkey. (Publication in Turkish)
  • “Moderna kcer kemalistickog Oca, u njenoj glavi, medu njenim nogama (Kemalist Father's Modern Daughter, Between Her Legs, Inside Her Head),” Zenicke Sveske. Balkanska žena: Utjesnacu tradicije i tranzicije. Bosnia and Hercegovina: Opca biblioteka Zenica, 2006. (Publication in Bosnian)
  • “Sanat Tarihinde Kahraman Erkek Estetiği ve Politik İktidar: Jacques-Louis David ve Horatius Kardeşlerin Yemini (Aesthetics of Heroic Masculinity in Art History and Political Power: Jacques-Louis David and The Oath of the Horatii),” Amargi Feminist Teori ve Politika (Autumn 2006). Istanbul, Turkey. (Publication in Turkish)

Courses Recently Taught

Upper-Level Undergraduate classes with Graduate Component

  • ART-HIST 323/623 European Art, 1780-1880
  • ART-HIST 381/671: Great Themes in Art: Emulation and Repetition in 19th-Century Art

Undergraduate Seminars

  • ART-HIST: Touch, Sight, and Imagination: Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Sculpture
  • ART-HIST: Impressionism, Tradition, Originality: What’s New Under the Sun?

Graduate Seminars

  • ART-HIST: 19th-Century Orientalism, Feminism, Hegemony
  • ART-HIST: The Problem of Color in 19th-Century Sculpture


Find out more about Professor Çakmak, here