Art History’s McPherson awarded Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction

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mcpherson streamHeather McPherson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Art and Art HistoryHeather McPherson, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Art and Art History, has established herself as an internationally known and highly respected scholar in the field of 18th- and 19th-century European art history. Now she also is the 2018 recipient of the Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction, presented annually by the College of Arts and Sciences to a faculty member for professional and academic achievements and contributions to the university and local community.

McPherson’s 2017 book, “Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons,” explored explores public affection for 18th-century performers such as English actress Sarah Siddons — known for roles such as Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth” and Queen Katherine in “Henry VIII”— and the role of renowned portraitists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, in making them phenomena.

“I was interested in looking at the intersection of portraiture and the theater and the central role of the visual and performing arts in fueling the notion of celebrities being public personalities that people identify with and are invested in,” McPherson told the UAB Reporter this past year.

Her expertise and insights on a wide range of disciplines — including photography, prints, decorative arts, painting and sculpture — have made McPherson, who earned her master’s degree in art history from the University de Paris/Sorbonne in Paris, a distinguished art historian. Her first book, 2001’s “The Modern Portrait in Nineteenth-Century France,” was praised by reviewers who noted the compelling prose and sophisticated arguments.

Art and Celebrity book inside“Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons” explores the idea that media-driven celebrity emerged in the 18th century.

In her capacity as a director of UAB Graduate Studies for 18 years, she mentored students into doctoral programs and museum professions.

“Dr. McPherson is a highly regarded teacher who shares her love of and expertise in art history with her students.”

“Dr. McPherson is a highly regarded teacher who shares her love of and expertise in art history with her students, who in turn express through their course surveys how much they love and enjoy her classes,” said Dean Robert Palazzo, Ph.D.

McPherson has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the British Academy, the Huntington Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. She has served in a variety of leadership positions in organizations in her field, including president and vice president of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies and the Executive Committee of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

The Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction includes a $5,000 cash prize and a Steuben crystal engraved award.