2019 Cezanne's Gravity + Eugenics in the Garden

Carol Armstrong's Cezanne's Gravity

& Fabiola López-Durán's Eugenics in the Garden


2019 Robert Motherwell Book Award Winners


The winners of the 2019 Robert Motherwell Book Award are Cézanne’s Gravity by Carol Armstrong, and Eugenics in the Garden: Transatlantic Architecture and the Crafting of Modernity by Fabiola López-Durán. The awards carry a $10,000 prize for each author.


Cézanne’s Gravity (Yale University Press) is an original and ambitious reassessment of the art and influence Paul Cézanne. Whereas previous studies of the artist have often looked at his work in relation to its influence on Cubism and the development of abstraction, Carol Armstrong examines Cézanne’s painting from a phenomenological and historical perspective. In this remarkably rich book, Armstrong convincingly relates the spatial structures of Cézanne’s paintings to Albert Einstein’s notions of space and time, and to the expansive, evocatively non-narrative works of artists and writers such as Virginia Woolf, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Helen Frankenthaler. Written with an exceptionally fine combination of scholarly rigor and attention to the physicality Cézanne’s of paintings, this book also offers a new methodology for art historical inquiry outside linear narratives.


Eugenics in the Garden (University of Texas Press) details how Latin American elites strove to modernize their cities at the turn of the twentieth century by eagerly adopting spurious eugenic theories. Based on Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory of the “inheritance of acquired characteristics,” eugenics informed a utopian project that made race, gender, class, and the built environment the critical instruments of modernity and progress. Eugenics in the Garden reveals how fear of social degeneration spread from the realms of medical science to architecture and urban planning, and how physicians and architects on both sides of the Atlantic participated in a global strategy of social engineering, legitimized by the putative authority of science. This book convincingly demonstrates that the role of race was an important tool in the geopolitics of space and the ideology of progress. Particular attention is given to how the influential architect Le Corbusier espoused the ways in which architecture could be used to perfect -- and “whiten” -- mankind.​


Carol Armstrong is a professor of Art History at Yale University. She has published books and essays on Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, 19th and 20th century photography, and modern and contemporary women artists, and has curated a number of outstanding exhibitions.


Fabiola López-Durán is Associate Professor of Art History, Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art and Architecture at Rice University. Her awards include predoctoral fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Dedalus Foundation, CLIR, Harvard Center for European Studies, Camargo Foundation, Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Fulbright Program.