Dickson Memorial Lecture Series

The Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History was established in 2011.  This lecture series is made possible by a generous endowment created by the late Mary Neilly of State College.  Mrs. Neilly graduated from Penn State in 1947 with a degree in journalism.  Two years later, when she was managing editor for the Penn State Alumni Association, she took an art history course from Dr. Harold E. Dickson (1900-87).  She never forgot this course and its extraordinary professor.  By creating an endowed lectureship in art history for visiting scholars she established a very worthy memorial to an exceptional teacher and scholar, Professor Dickson.

Dr. Dickson was one of the founders of the department.  He graduated from Penn State College in 1922, with a degree in architectural engineering.  He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Fine Arts from Harvard University.  While he was pursuing his graduate degrees at Harvard, he was teaching at Penn State, beginning in 1923 with the title of “instructor of watercolor.”  Art History began at Penn State as a one-credit “Art Appreciation” course, which developed into a very popular single course, and eventually a department.  Dr. Dickson was a highly respected and productive scholar in the field of American art and architecture. He played an instrumental role in finding the funding and selecting Henry Varnum Poor to paint the land-grant frescoes in Old Main.

The annual Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History brings leading scholars in art history to Penn State to share their latest research and meet with students.  Often the topics of the lectures relate to courses that are currently being taught.


Dickson Lecture Series

"Vandalism": The Intentional Damage and Modification of Visual Art in Renaissance Italy

Dr. Megan Holmes, Professor of Art History, University of Michigan, (Introduced by Dr. Daniel Zolli)
Oct 5 2017 - 6:00pm
112 Borland Building

The intentional destruction of iconic monuments and cultural heritage sites has been much in the news of late. This lecture offers a timely exploration of an earlier, Italian Renaissance example, where paintings in churches and in domestic spaces were routinely intentionally scratched and gouged by their users.  An argument will be made for the need to historicize and contextualize the so-called "vandalism" of visual art.  Particular emphasis will be given to situating this kind of dynamic, performative response within the Renaissance period, within a history of visual art, and within a broader political perspective.