Matthew Affron – Report

We received the following project update from Mead Faculty Honoree Matthew Affron:

 I used the Mead award during the fall of 2012 in conjunction with a seminar on the origins and development of abstract art. This seminar included 12 students and was attached to a special exhibition at the university’s Fralin Museum of Art featuring paintings and drawings by the French artist Jean Hélion, a leading figure in the international art world who spent parts of the 1930s living and painting in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia.

The Mead Endowment made possible two special events.

 On October 9, we traveled by van to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the students had an opportunity to study in detail some great works of art in the Gallatin collection. There was some excitement during the trip up to Philadelphia. An oil truck crashed on the bridge over the Susquehanna River in Maryland, causing an immense highway traffic jam. We did not let this stop us; we found a detour and made it to the museum with only a moderate delay.

There was time for a quick but celebratory lunch before heading into the galleries to hear the students give reports on works of art in the Gallatin collection that they had researched. The opportunity to look closely and in person at these artworks was a true highlight of the semester. We capped off our day in Philadelphia with a pizza dinner.

One of the joys of teaching the course was the opportunity to get to know one of the artist’s sons, Louis Blair. Mr. Blair, himself a UVa graduate, graciously offered to travel to Charlottesville for lunch with the students and a discussion at the Garden Room on the Lawn’s West Range. Through Mr. Blair, the members of the seminar were able to get to know his father and ask questions that they had been formulating all semester.

Soon after the opening of the Hélion exhibition at the Fralin, I discovered that Dean Harry Harding of the Batten School has an interest in Hélion. On November 6, my students and I walked over to the Lawn to meet Dean Harding and his partner Shirley Lin for a mini-seminar on a beautiful Hélion painting on display in the Dean’s pavilion.

I’d like extend my sincerest gratitude to the Mead Endowment for its generous support. This award greatly enhanced the experience of the seminar for all involved.

Matthew Affron



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