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Julie Nelson Davis was named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2021.

Art History professor Julie Nelson Davis was named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow.

The fellowship is awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to scholars and artists to pursue research in any field for six to 12 months. Davis is among 184 artists, writers, scholars, and scientists to receive the fellowship this year, out of a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants from the United States and Canada.

Davis was awarded the fine arts fellowship for her work in 1770 to 1820 Japanese print culture and “Ukiyo-e,” artwork that depicts what she described as the "floating world" — prominent parts of Japanese urban culture and its people, including kabuki theatre, licensed prostitution districts, temples, sumo wrestling, and entertainment culture in Tokyo. 

For her fellowship, Davis will focus on her project, “The Ghost in the Brush: Imitation, Homage, and Fabrication in Ukiyo-e Painting,” where she will explore the authenticity of Ukiyo-e artwork. Her research will include close analyses of illustrations, famous artist Hokusai’s daughter, Utamaro’s paintings, and dealer networks.

Davis currently co-teaches ARTH 102: "World Art: 1400 to Now” with associate professor of Art History David Young Kim. She also recently published the second edition of her book, “Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty.” 

Davis plans to spend her summer at the Clark Art Institute at Williams College, where she received a separate fellowship. Davis also hopes to travel to visit Ukiyo-e collections at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., and institutions in Paris, London, Tokyo, and Kyoto.  When she returns after her year of leave, Davis hopes to teach a class revolving around the Arthur Tress collection of illustrations at Penn.

Davis is among a series of Penn recipients that have been awarded the fellowship. Last year, Classics professor Emily Wilson received the fellowship for her work in translating Greek and Roman literature, and in 2019 four Penn faculty members received the award for various projects.

For Davis, receiving the fellowship is an affirmation of her work and encourages her to think about new projects.

“It gives my work a profile that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Davis said. “It’s really affirming to have the Guggenheim Foundation say this is a really timely and important kind of project.”