Prof. Johns' lecture will examine a little-known statue of George Washington, created in 1816 by Italian Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) for the North Carolina State House in Raleigh. Portraying Washington as a seated Classical hero, dressed in Roman attire, this work, according to Prof. Johns, "marks a crucial shift in the history of Neoclassicism from an ideology that mined the Graeco-Roman past as a model of a utopian future to a deployment of Classicism's authority to justify and reinforce the economic and social status quo." Through associations with such figures as the Roman citizen-hero Cincinnatus, Washington became for proslavery plantation owners both a symbol of political dominance and an icon of state's rights.
Prof. Johns has taught in the McIntire Department of Art at the University of Virginia since 1985, where he has received the University of Virginia Alumni Council Outstanding Young Teacher Award. He also is the recipient of numerous other awards, from such organizations as the American Academy in Rome, the Fulbright Foundation, and Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art. Prof. Johns has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa and a Thomas Jefferson Visiting Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge University, and has lectured widely at such places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University, the University of Heidelberg, and the Swedish Institute at Rome.
Specializing in the visual culture of Eighteenth- and early Nineteenth-century Europe, Prof. Johns' recent publications include Antonio Canova and the Politics of Patronage in Revolutionary and Napoleonic Europe (Berkeley, 1988), a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award of the College Art Association; "The Cultural Entrêpot of Europe: Rome in the Eighteenth Century," in Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century (exh. cat., Philadelphia and London, 2000); "Ecclesiastical Politics and Papal Tombs: Antonio Canova's Monuments to Clement XIV and Clement XIII," in The Sculpture Journal; and "'That Amiable Object of Adoration': Pompeo Batoni and the Sacred Heart," in Gazette des Beaux-Arts.
This marks Professor Johns' second trip to Washington College.