A Modern Old Master? Using Historical GIS To Chart El Greco's Influence on the French Avant-Garde

Digital mapping promises to transform the humanities. It offers scholars fresh tools to develop research questions, analyze data, and publish findings. For example, art historian Ellen Prokop has developed digital maps to evaluate the temporal and spatial distribution of sixteenth-century Spanish artist El Greco’s work. The longstanding art-historical narrative relates that El Greco inspired developments in European modern art. Prokop’s maps show the improbability of this story, prompting reassessment of El Greco’s relationship to modernist artists in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Prokop 2015). Other humanists at the forefront of this innovative approach to the study of art and history employ maps to provide refreshed looks at photography, soundscapes, cities, and developments in the art market.

Cutting-edge projects featured in the series offer the Emory community and people across Atlanta an opportunity to consider a variety of approaches to the joining of geo-spatial analysis and humanistic inquiry. 

Inspired by the August 2014 Kress Summer Institute on Digital Mapping and Art History at Middlebury College and the April 2015 Association of American Geographers annual meeting, assistant professor of art history Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi conceived and designed the initial series for the spring semester of 2016. Southern Spaces published Gagliardi’s essay, “MAP IT | Little Dots, Big Ideas: Transforming the Humanities with Geo-Spatial Analysis” in June 2016. The journal has also published lectures from the MAP IT series.


Co-sponsors for the Spring 2018 series include (as of 4 January 2018):
Emory’s Art History DepartmentCenter for Digital Scholarship, Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Hightower Fund, and Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods.

Co-sponsors for the Fall 2017 series include (as of 18 October 2017):
Emory’s Anthropology DepartmentArt History DepartmentCenter for Digital Scholarship, Center for Faculty Development and ExcellenceFox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and Institute of African Studies.

Co-sponsors for the Spring 2016 series included (as of 15 December 2015):
Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, Center for Faculty Development and ExcellenceFox Center for Humanistic Inquiry; the Art History, Environmental Sciences, French and Italian, History, Sociology, and Spanish and Portuguese Departments; the Institute for Quantitative Theory and MethodsLatin American and Caribbean Studies Program; the Laney Graduate School New Thinkers/New Leaders Fund; and the Hightower Fund.

Image Credits

Henry G. Peabody, “Down Grand Canyon, From Zuni Point,” 1899

In Enchanting the Desert, author Nicholas Bauch builds a digital cultural geography for this and 42 more of Peabody’s photographs that Peabody packaged and sold in a slideshow throughout the early twentieth century. Stanford University Press published Enchanting the Desert in 2016. Image courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Ellen Prokop, “A Modern Old Master? Using Historical GIS To Chart El Greco’s Influence on the French Avant-Garde,” 2015

Many specialists have claimed that El Greco (1541–1614) served as an important source of inspiration for several seminal masters of French nineteenth-century painting, including Paul Cézanne (1839–1906). Yet there is little evidence that these avant-garde artists had the opportunity to study El Greco’s work first-hand. This lecture will outline this scholarly debate and demonstrate how geospatial technologies and analytical techniques offer a compelling means to explore El Greco’s contested legacy and discover new perspectives on the enduring issue of his influence.