Kristel Smentek is an historian of eighteenth-century European visual culture with specializations in the history of collecting, the art market, and the European encounter with Asia. Smentek has received several fellowships and awards from the Council of Graduate Schools/UMI, the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery, Washington, DC, among others.
In her first book, Mariette and the Science of the Eighteenth-Century Connoisseur (forthcoming, 2015), she analyzes the transformation of scholarly discourse on art in Enlightenment Europe through an investigation of the celebrated eighteenth-century print dealer, book publisher, and connoisseur of art and antiquities, Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774). Her work situates Mariette’s praxis within the intellectual and social structures of the eighteenth century and elucidates the historically specific meanings of collecting and connoisseurship as forms of knowledge and social distinction. Mariette’s own scholarship and his ambivalence about the market he helped bring into being provide the context for an examination of the emergence of ‘art’ and ‘aesthetics’ as categories of intellectual inquiry and the ideological opposition of both to commerce in an era of consumer revolution.
In her new book project, Objects of Encounter, Framing China in Eighteenth-Century France, Smentek analyzes European engagements with Asian objects in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and their impact on continental art and aesthetic theory. This project unites two central themes of her research: the role of the market in structuring the reception of art and the cross-cultural dimensions of eighteenth-century European artistic production. In an article published in 2003 in the exhibition catalogue Colorful Impressions: The Printmaking Revolution in Eighteenth-Century France (National Gallery of Art, 2003), Smentek analyzed the marketing of new color printmaking technologies in the late ancien régime. Another article on the role of fashion and novelty in the print market of the 1780s was published in Genre Painting in Eighteenth-Century France (Studies in the History of Art, 2007).
In her exhibition and catalogue, Rococo Exotic: French Mounted Porcelains and the Allure of the East (The Frick Collection, NYC, March-September 2007), she examined the eighteenth-century French fascination with Asia as manifested in mounted Chinese porcelains. European engagement with the visual culture of the Ottoman Empire is the subject of her article on the eighteenth-century self-described "Turkish" painter Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789), published in Ars Orientalis in 2010. Liotard’s work was showcased in an exhibition she helped organize at the Frick in 2006.
While her research and curatorial work is anchored in the eighteenth century, Smentek’s teaching bridges the modern and early modern periods. She has taught courses on European visual culture from the Renaissance to the present, on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European painting, ornament from the Rococo to the 1920s, the history and theory of the art museum, and the Asian-European encounter in the eighteenth century.
PhD in Art History, University of Delaware
Master of Arts in Art History, University of Delaware
Bachelor of Arts, Art History (First Class Honors), McGill University
External Faculty Fellow, Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.
Council of Graduate Schools/UMI Distinguished Dissertation in the Humanities and Fine Arts
Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellowship: The Frick Collection, New York
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme: Residential fellowship, Paris.
2002 - 2003
Francis Haskell Memorial Fund Award: Travel award.
Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellowship in Art History: Department of Drawings and Prints, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Samuel H. Kress Foundation Curatorial Fellowship: Departments of French Painting and Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Declined)
David E. Finley Doctoral Fellowship: Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Samuel H. Kress Foundation Travel Fellowship in the History of Art
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship
German Academic Exchange Service (D.A.A.D.) Summer Study Fellowship: Herder Institute, University of Leipzig
Smithsonian Graduate Fellowship: Department of Drawings and Prints, Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, New York.