Written by Amelia Boo, Art History Undergrad (’18)
Professor Andrew Casper
PhD, University of Pennsylvania
MA, University of Pennsylvania
BA, University of Michigan
Andrew Casper is a specialist of Renaissance and Baroque art of southern Europe with a concentration on Italian religious art following the Counter Reformation, as well as the preeminent career of Domenikos Theotokopoulos “El Greco.” At Miami University, Dr. Casper teaches courses in Renaissance and Baroque art in Europe and Latin America, including The History of Western Art: Renaissance to Modern. He is admired by Miami University students of all majors, from art history to finance and everything in between.
In his career thus far, Dr. Casper has published several articles, essays and reviews. He has published one book, and is hard at work on another. He has given conference presentations and lectures on sixteenth-century icons and religious paintings from El Greco’s Italian period. His book, Art and the Religious Image in El Greco’s Italy (Penn State University Press, 2014) “presents scholars with a challenge” in confronting the notion of the “artful icon” given the climate of El Greco’s Italy in the post-Council of Trent notion of religious imagery. Of note is Art and the Religious Image in El Greco’s Italy consideration as part of the Art History Publication Initiative (AHPI), a collaborative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Dr. Casper’s current research is on theologies of artifice in conceptions of the the Shroud of Turin from the late 1500s through 1600s. He is currently working on a book, tentatively titled The Shroud of Turin as Art, Icon, and Relic. This book will be the first art historical examination of a relic regarded as Christ’s original burial cloth, replete with bloodstained images of Christ’s body, during the time of its most intense devotional following from 1578 to 1694. In particular, it explores how early-modern devotional manuals draw from Renaissance and Baroque art theory to portray the Shroud’s imprint of Christ’s body as a divine work of art. This book will examine how reproductions of the Shroud serve as discursive commentaries on the authority of artistic productivity and its role in disseminating an image whose own generation is credited to divine creation. Dr. Casper’s research for this project has been funded by grants from the American Philosophical Society, the Italian Art Society, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He recently received a George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship from Brown University to complete work on the book manuscript.
In addition, Dr. Casper has presented scholarly work at the conferences of the College Art Association, the Renaissance Society of America, Sixteenth Century Society, and at other national and international venues. He is a recipient of external grants from the American Philosophical Society, Art History Publication Initiative, College Art Association, Fulbright, Italian Art Society, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Newberry Library. He is the winner of the 2014 Miami University Distinguished Teaching Award.
Students at Miami University have come to recognize Dr. Casper with the same intense awe and reverential spirit Dr. Casper once reserved for his professors during his time as an undergraduate. “I really knew I wanted to be one of the professors in college who I absolutely revered,” stated Dr. Casper. “There was this sense of awe. As an undergrad I remember being intimidated and simultaneously proud I had access to my professors. I was absolutely in awe of their scholarship.” Dr. Casper credits his undergraduate thesis advisor R. Ward Bissell at the University of Michigan, and his PhD advisor at Penn Michael W. Cole (now at Columbia University) for giving him the foundation to not only pursue, but to endure, the academic rigor required of high scholarship in the field of art history. “I can’t think of any living human beings that have such a powering intelligence. To have that kind of mind…” drifts Dr. Casper, clearly still remaining in a state of veneration reserved only for the “academic heroes” one rarely comes across. “I was consistently and constantly wonderstruck by their ideas and intelligence and rigor of thinking.”
Dr. Casper similarly thought of by his students. “One of the things that I found fascinating about art history was that it allowed me to explore so many different things all at once. I was interested in religious ideas, philosophy, foreign languages… Art history satisfied my desire to learn all things.” To this day, the Art History Capstone Class of 2017 describes Dr. Casper as being “a learner just as much as any student who enters his classroom.” The glowing testament is consonant with his goals as an educator: “If I had to summarize my whole approach to teaching,” he reveals, “it’s learning alongside my students. My role still very much feels like that of a student.” Dr. Casper’s advice to undergraduates of art history is to never fail to underestimate just how much more there is to be learned. To remain curious is to remain conscious. Dr. Casper explains, “The more I learned about art history, the more I wanted to know. That hasn’t changed. Even in this professional life, I’m still taken aback by how much there is still for me to learn and for me and others to discover.”
Professor Casper approaches the process of teaching with a rare humility, genuine curiosity and unassuming politeness as a life-long learner. This modesty allows his students to hold him in the highest regard as a scholar and truly great mind while at the same time remaining approachable. Miami University is lucky to have him.