Aili Waller

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20222023 Forum on Heritage

Aili Waller

History of Art

CAS, 2024

Aili Waller is a junior from Lexington, Virginia. She is majoring in Art History and minoring in Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Her current academic interests lie in the study of forgotten 19th-century American artists, particularly women. In her research, she uses genealogical techniques and resources to try to rediscover their lives and works. She is also the Schoenberg Institute of Manuscripts’ outreach intern, who acts as a student representative to connect and promote Penn’s rare books collection with undergraduate students.

Using Genealogy to Recover Lost Artists: The Case of Josephine Walters

This project seeks to show how one can rediscover and reconstruct the biographies of 19th-century American landscape artists through genealogical and art historical research techniques and sources. A person's socioeconomic status, geographic location, and familial medical history foundationally affect the life and career choices a person makes, and this information becomes uniquely clear through genealogical records. Since 19th-century artists worked within close-knit circles of their families, friends, colleagues, and patrons, this project will show how cluster genealogy can be used to create a fuller picture of an artist's biography. This project will use the artist Josephine Walters (1837-1883) as a case study to demonstrate how this genealogical approach to art history can be used to recover artists, particularly women, who have been unfairly excluded from the art historical canon.