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Scholarship will allow UW junior to do graduate studies in art history

April 16, 2014 By Susannah Brooks

“I grew up in a small Wisconsin farming town,” writes University of Wisconsin–Madison junior Brontë Mansfield, “where my only exposure to art was in the books of my childhood, cherished illustrated volumes of fairytales like a weathered edition of The Little Mermaid by H.C. Andersen.”

Today, Mansfield’s love of art has blossomed into a way for her to pursue future study. Now majoring in art history and English, she is among twenty college juniors nationwide selected to receive a Beinecke Scholarship, which provides $34,000 for graduate study leading to a terminal degree in the arts, humanities or social sciences. 

Photo: Brontë Mansfield

Brontë Mansfield

“She is one of the most determined, capable, and focused undergraduates I have encountered,” says art history Professor Nancy Rose Marshall, one of Mansfield’s mentors. “She clearly represents the next generation of my field.”

The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established in 1971 by the Sperry and Hutchinson Company. UW–Madison’s last Beinecke Scholars were anthropology major Joanna Lawrence in 2013 and political science major Asad Asad in 2010.

Mansfield discovered the allure of museums on a trip to London at age 17. She nurtured her love of British art and Victoriana through a student position as an assistant to the curator of prints, drawings and photographs at UW–Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art.

Following graduation, Mansfield will receive a grant of $4,000, intended to help offset the costs associated with the graduate application process and to pay for travel expenses directly related to starting graduate school. The remaining $30,000 will go directly to her graduate school of choice.

She hopes to study at either Yale University, home to the Yale Center for British Art, or the Courtauld Institute of Art, in London.

“I plan to pursue a graduate career in art history because I believe that engagement with art objects allows insights into history that cannot be accessed solely through texts.”

Brontë Mansfield

“I am sure she will thrive in graduate school, as she is as passionate about her scholarship as she is driven to focus on it,” says Marshall. “Her visceral, intense connection with the objects of her studies, accompanied by her pleasure in the intellectual environment, are two important criteria for success in a graduate program.”

Mansfield has pursued multiple research opportunities, published in an undergraduate journal and presented her work at departmental and national undergraduate conferences. As a sophomore, she won a prestigious summer research apprenticeship through the Letters & Science Honors Program, and she has submitted a strong proposal for the Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

She recently represented UW–Madison at the 2014 Posters in the Rotunda, held in the Wisconsin State Capitol, with a presentation on the advertising accompanying the serialization of Charles Dickens’ “Our Mutual Friend.”

“I plan to pursue a graduate career in art history because I believe that engagement with art objects allows insights into history that cannot be accessed solely through texts,” says Mansfield. “A work of art is more than what it depicts, but is also its paint, canvas, and frame, its living models, its reviews in contemporary newspapers, its auction history, and more. Art has an intricate life beyond its initial conception.”