by Kathy Kienholz
As Professor William Gerdts retires from the Graduate Center we would like to show our appreciation for his generosity, scholarship, and commitment to this institution and her students. This issue of PART magazine is dedicated to Professor Gerdts. The contributors are students of his from past and present. The articles and reviews cover such diverse topics as William Sidney Mount, the Ashcan School, Edwin Dickinson, Japanese Artists in America, panoramas, American watercolors, and portraiture. Additionally, the issue includes a walking tour of Greenwich Village, an essay on teaching, a fictional story, and original artwork.
Professor Gerdts has influenced a countless number of scholars in American art by setting an example of generosity in scholarship. He offers access to his private collection of books, papers, and original documents on American art to interested researchers. His collection is one of the best research libraries on American art in the country. There is certain to be a document or exhibition catalogue on the closely packed shelves of Professor Gerdts’ library which proves integral to finishing a thesis or dissertation.
This access to original material adds immeasurably to the quality of scholarship produced at the Graduate Center, and reflects the meticulous scholarship evident in Professor Gerdts’ own books and articles. Although it is unusual to use the word integrity in this cynical age, it well applies to the scrupulous attention given original sources by Professor Gerdts.
Beneficent in his use of his large network of contacts in the American art field, Professor Gerdts has assisted many struggling students and scholars. A step beyond the general practice of advising, this practical help has launched many a career.
Additionally, Professor Gerdts’ lectures offer the student a strong background in all aspects of American art. Not content to merely mention a particular movement or artist in passing, he elaborates and illustrates his lectures to such a degree that notes from his classes are carefully hoarded and saved as the ultimate resource, unavailable anywhere else, on American Impressionism, American portraiture, criticism, still-life painting – and much more.
Since all of art history comes back to seeing and interpreting images, no matter how far it strays from that, we must acknowledge Professor Gerdts’ contributions to the visual awareness of his students. Connoisseurship comes from the evaluation and judgment of works of art. The ability to determine the merits of a work of art comes after years of exacting visual research. Due to Professor Gerdts’ efforts, his students have the beginning tools to sharpen their own faculties. From his own outstanding collection of American still-life painting which students have access to, to his drive to improve the quality of the American art in the collection of the slide library at the Graduate Center his students are remarkably prepared to enter the field of American art.
The following essays exhibit the qualities Professor Gerdts has sought to instill in his students, namely punctilious research, excellent writing and presentation, and absorbing subject matter.