Meet a Lucerna Author: Carolyn Nordengren

My paper, “A Father’s Fantasy: Depicting Class in Jan Steen’s Fantasy Interior,” explores the depiction of social classes in seventeenth-century Dutch society. I analyze the representation of the Schouten family in Fantasy Interior with Jan Steen and the Family of Gerrit Schouten from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The two generations depicted, parents and children, represent two social classes (roughly the seventeenth-century Dutch equivalent of our middle and upper classes). I argue that this portrait documents the family’s recent increase in wealth and subsequent rise in social standing by portraying the children as inhabiting the level of luxury and leisure that they will soon enjoy while their father imagines their future from his middle-class position.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I first became interested in the art of the Netherlands because of an affinity for its aesthetics. However, as I progressed through my studies, I became fascinated with the development this small water-logged nation in the back corner of Europe from its fight for independence from Spain to the nation’s own rise as a global player in trade and exploration. The tumult and enrichment had a profound impact on the development of the national psyche and social structure and that is evident in the nation’s artwork.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The most enjoyable aspect of this project was to have the opportunity to explore the social structure of a time long past and imagine what it might have been like to negotiate that environment. The biggest challenge of this project, as with any art historical undertaking, is to approach the issue from a period-accurate viewpoint. As a modern viewer it is difficult to avoid bringing anachronistic biases and opinions to the work.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

Take every single assignment seriously. It doesn’t matter if it’s a one-page reading reflection or a term paper, everything you write has the opportunity to push you to new ideas and questions. From there just keep gathering connections and questions until you find something you want to write about. Your professors are also great resources to talk to about potential research or papers.

What are your professional plans or goals?

After I graduate from UMKC this year, I plan to earn an art history Ph.D. I’ll focus my graduate studies in the early modern period, particularly the Atlantic world from the European arrival in the Americas through the eighteenth century. My hope is to focus on cultural exchange and how the movement of people, objects, and ideas affected the development of culture and knowledge on both sides of the Atlantic. After I finish school, my goal is to work in a curatorial department in an art museum or become a professor of art history.