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Isabelle Masse

2019-21 FRQSC Postdoctoral Fellow/Visiting Scholar, Art History, UCLA


Isabelle Masse received her Ph.D. in art history from McGill University (2019) and is currently pursuing a two-year FRQSC postdoctoral fellowship at the UCLA Department of Art History (2019–21). She specializes in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century drawing, particularly pastel, and holds additional expertise in contemporary photography. Building on experience as a professional portrait painter, her academic research highlights the significance of the medium, and materiality broadly speaking, in the analysis of portraiture. 

Her postdoctoral project “Itinerant Portraitists in North America: Mobility, Practice, Transmission, 1776–1812” examines the production and commercialization of portraiture in light of migratory movements. It explores the practices of three artists who traveled across North America between 1776 and 1812: John Ramage (ca.1748–1802), Eliab Metcalf (1785–1834), and Gerrit Schipper (1770/75–1825). Diverging from portraiture historiographical tradition, this book-length study raises questions related to specific concerns of art makers, including art techniques, transport logistics, and promotional strategies. It shows how the constraints and freedoms inherent to nomadism defined portrait practices, and with them, the artworks themselves. Concurrently, this project traces nascent Canadian-American cultural interaction through the lens of artist mobility and develops a perspective that emphasizes the role of materiality as a driving force of globalization. 

Masse’s research has been published in the peer-reviewed journals RACAR and Journal of Canadian Art History, and presented at conferences, such as those of the College Art Association (CAA), the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association (NCSA), and the International, American, and Canadian Societies for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS, ASECS, CSECS). Recently, in preparation for her book manuscript on itinerant artists, she undertook archival work at the American Antiquarian Society with the support of a Last Fellowship. Further research funded by an ASECS-Clark Fellowship will be carried out in the upcoming months at the UCLA Clark Library.

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