Meet Our Postdoctoral Fellows: Isabelle Gapp

November 1, 2021 by Department of Art History

Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellow

Prior to joining the University of Toronto this Autumn, I was working as an independent researcher having completed my PhD in History of Art at the University of York, UK in 2020. Here, my thesis worked around latitudinal northern Circumpolar lines, exploring the historiographical and ecological synergies between Scandinavian and Canadian landscape painting in the early twentieth century. This project, A Circumpolar Landscape: Art and Environment in Scandinavia and North America, 1890–1930, is under contract with Lund Humphries as part of their Northern Lights series (forthcoming Autumn 2023).

A large part of my coming to the University of Toronto was the opportunity to work with Mark Cheetham. On a previous visit to Toronto in early 2019 I had met with Mark on the off chance I would later apply for a postdoctoral fellowship to come to Canada. Fast forward to late 2020, and not only did his research interests in landscape and eco art tesselate with my own ecocritical focus, but Mark was also looking at the art of nineteenth-century Arctic voyaging!

My own research broadly considers the intersections between nineteenth- and twentieth-century landscape painting, gender, and environmental history around the Arctic and Circumpolar North. My new project as part of my postdoctoral research looks at images created by settler and Indigenous women artists—through photography, film, printmaking, and Indigenous craft—and how these might be used to highlight questions of environmental history, imperialism, and Indigeneity, in Arctic Canada, Alaska, and Greenland, from 1840 to the present day. I look forward to engaging with the resources offered by the magnificent Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library as part of my research into alternative narratives of polar exploration, livelihoods, and landscapes.

Beyond my research activities, I am the co-organiser of a three-day conference Nordic Nature: Art, Ecology, Landscape taking place at KODE Art Museums, Bergen in June 2022. I also serve on the Editorial Board for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), as well as on the Web and Publicity Committee for the Nineteenth Century Studies Association (NCSA). I am also fluent in Swedish having been brought up and educated in Sweden, which explains my research interests in the Nordic and Circumpolar region.

Aside from the incredible library and departmental resources offered at U of T, the Jackman Humanities Institute has already played a formative role in my postdoctoral experience so far. Alongside Mark, I am the co-lead of the JHI Working Group Visual Cultures of the Circumpolar North. This involves 16 scholars from various career stages and disciplines, exploring perspectives on Indigenous, environmental, and settler pasts, presents, and futures around the Circumpolar North to examine the complex visual/textual cultures of this region. The two group meetings we have had so far (including the first in-person event for many of us in nearly two years) has already helped me feel connected to the wider research community at U of T and I’m excited to develop these relationships and conversations further, both within the Department of Art History and beyond.