Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Announces Winner of 2016 Graduate Research Essay Prize

By Emily D Shapiro

September 14, 2016

Jeff Richmond-Moll, a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Delaware, has been awarded the fifth annual Archives of American Art Graduate Research Essay Prize, funded by the Dedalus Foundation. This prize recognizes emerging scholars who advance the understanding of American art history through the innovative use of primary sources at the Archives of American Art.

The author’s award-winning essay, “‘The Inevitable Triumph’: Violet Oakley’s ‘The Angel of Victory’ and World War II,” examines a series of portable triptychs that Oakley produced for use on American battleships, military bases, and airfields around the world. Focusing on the 1941 triptych “The Angel of Victory,” Richmond-Moll interrogates this pacifist artist’s efforts to reconcile America’s nascent military fight with her own moral convictions. The prize jury, which consisted of art historians David McCarthy (Rhodes College), Emily D. Shapiro (Archives of American Art) and James Smalls (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), lauded Richmond-Moll’s text as “an excellent contribution to the growing body of literature on the visual culture of World War II” that was “inconceivable without the rich holdings at the Archives of American Art.” 

“Richmond-Moll makes impressive use of primary sources to challenge conventional understandings of the relationship between art and religion during World War II,” said Kate Haw, director of the Archives. “Likewise, the author uses these resources to paint a clearer picture of the limitations and opportunities faced by American artists during wartime. We are deeply grateful to the Dedalus Foundation for their support of this prize, which encourages and promotes creative approaches to archival research.”

The author will receive a $1,000 cash award and a one-year subscription to the Archives of American Art Journal, a scholarly publication that showcases new approaches to and out-of-the-box thinking about primary sources.

Founded in 1954, the Archives of American Art fosters advanced research through the accumulation and dissemination of primary sources, unequaled in historical depth and breadth, that document more than 200 years of the nation’s artists and art communities. The Archives provides access to these materials through its exhibitions and publications, including the Archives of American Art Journal, the longest-running scholarly journal in the field of American art. An international leader in digitizing archival collections, the Archives also makes nearly 2.5 million digital images freely available online. The Archives’ oral history collection includes more than 2,200 audio interviews, the largest accumulation of in-depth, first-person accounts of the American art world.  

Founded in 1981 by the artist Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), the Dedalus Foundation educates the public by fostering public understanding of modern art and modernism through its support of research, education, publications and exhibitions in this field. For more information, visit the foundation’s website at http://dedalusfoundation.org (opens in new window).